, Muskogee, OK

September 2, 2013

Protect those who protect us

— The Muskogee City Council made the right call by asking to explore an amendment for an ordinance that would allow the Muskogee Fire Department to construct a multi-agency training facility. And if the amended ordinance comes to fruition, the council should pass it.

The Fire Department’s training tower is four decades old and is structurally unsound and dangerous, Fire Department Chief Derek Tatum says.

Four years ago, voters approved a capital improvements package that included funding for a new facility from a temporary sales tax. But the ordinance required the funds used to construct the facility be matched dollar-for-dollar with private funds. Tatum said it has been hard to find the matching funds.

If the amended ordinance wins City Council approval, revenue from the 0.18 percent sales tax, which expires Sept. 30, 2014, could be tapped to build the training tower. Once all the procedural issues have been resolved, Tatum said, construction of the new training facility could begin late next year.

The city needs to keep safe those who keep us safe. Training on 40-year-old equipment is potentially dangerous to the brave firefighters who protect us and put their lives on the line.

A new training facility could include burn rooms in which firefighters battle live fires. Other confined spaces inside any new facility could be used for police training, and Oklahoma State University’s fire service training program could use the facility to train firefighters from other departments.

“All of these different types of training at this facility could draw people into Muskogee for a day or two,” Tatum said.

Although the boost of money coming into Muskogee is an added plus, the main concern is the safety of citizens, and a new training facility will give firefighters and law enforcement officials an updated — and safe — tool to protect us.