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Spokane could save $1 million on vehicle training course if it breaks ground by July

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(The Center Square) – Spokane County spent years planning for an emergency vehicle course that it still needs to build, but if plans are nailed down soon, it could save $1 million compared to initial projections.

The latest round of proposals to design and build the Emergency Vehicle Operator Course, or EVOC, reached the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday. Kevin Richey, an undersheriff with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, asked for approval to proceed with the lowest bid.

Initial projections put the project’s cost at around $3.4 million. However, a more recent bid came in at $2.56 million, almost 25% less than the county’s anticipated cost. Still, if the Board of County Commissioners fails to award the bid by next week, the price could go up with its completion pushed past September.

“If it’s awarded next week, construction would begin almost immediately,” Richey said. “The bid has a deadline for them to complete the EVOC track by Sept. 15.”

The EVOC will feature a quarter-mile-long straightaway with a curved return lane, lighting, and a carport. He said the intention is to train officers while operating under pressure, including high-speed pursuit scenarios, “skid car training,” a pursuit immobilization technique, or PIT maneuver, among other topics.

The Sheriff’s Office wants to prop up the course at its new $41 million Regional Training Center and Small Arms Range. Richey said the County has about $1.8 million remaining from the RTC, so the Board of County Commissioners only needs to approve an additional $1.2 million to finish its final phase, leaving some cushion in the event of added costs.

Completing the EVOC would wrap up construction at the RTC and years of planning that went into making it possible for Spokane County.

Richey said the Sheriff’s Office anticipates generating about $50,000 annually in rental revenue from the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission and other agencies that use the track. That money could then make up for the funding that the Board of County Commissioners is expected to approve. Meanwhile, the $1.2 million would probably come from county reserves.

Previously, the Legislature stripped law enforcement of the ability to engage in vehicular pursuits except under strict criteria; however, it handed back that authority two weeks ago after a voter initiative overturned the 2021 law.

“We’ve hired approximately 100 [officers] in the last couple years,” Richey said. “… We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve never been in a pursuit in their entire life.”

He said it’s crucial that the Sheriff’s Office train and prepare those officers for the new reality facing them. Around half of the department lacks this experience, which can lead to a lot of liability if something were to go wrong due to a lack of training.

Additionally, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is scheduled to host a national training conference toward the end of September with the Association of Law Enforcement Emergency Response Trainers, or ALERT. The event will attract trainers nationwide to the new EVOC track.

The Commissioners, which expressed support during the meeting on Tuesday, are expected to vote on whether to award the bid and corresponding funding on June 25.

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