By Holly Crocco
While a proposal to build a public safety training facility on donated land in Southeast fell through a couple of years ago, the county is now revisiting the idea.
According to TJ McDermott, director of the Paladin Center civilian and Homeland Security education facility in Carmel, the center would like to work with the county to utilize a 135-acre piece of land that has been donated to the county, located behind Tilly Foster Farm and backing up to John Simpson Road, to bring this plan to fruition.
“The land was donated to the county with the intent of the owner of the property that a first responder training facility would be built on the property,” said McDermott at the county’s March 22 Economic Development Committee meeting.
He said Paladin would like to build a 15,000- to 20,000-square-foot building on the property to accommodate all the training and interoperability exercises needed. All of the training would take place indoors, with the occasional outdoor exercise involving a fire department ladder truck.
McDermott said the facility would create jobs, provide free training for all first-responders in the county, and bring in first-responders from all over the country.
While the county’s prior administration and the Paladin Center were unable to come up with a way to make the for-profit and non-profit aspects of the project work, legislators said they are optimistic that a successful proposal can be agreed upon.
“I think you guys have a great business for our community,” said Legislator Paul Jonke, R-Brewster. “I would be in favor of whatever we can do to help move this along. I know the intention of the donation was to support this business and support this operation, and it’s wonderful to have this in Putnam County.”
Legislator Greg Ellner, R-Mahopac, agreed. “I would very much like to continue these discussions and investigations,” he said.
Putnam County Industrial Development Agency Chairman Bill Nulk said the Paladin Center provides a boost to the local economy by attracting tourists and visitors to the county.
“When they do operate, they bring in people from all over the world,” he said. “It’s a win-win all around.”
According to McDermott, the center has been a staging point for New York State Electric & Gas workers. “So when their crews come in, they generally leave their equipment with us because it’s safe, then they look for hotels,” he said.
In addition, the center operated as a COVID-19 testing location for the county during the height of the pandemic.
In the future, McDermott said the Paladin Center is working with the federal High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program to provide classroom space for between 50 and 100 students from all over the country who are training in that area of expertise.
McDermott and the Paladin Center were asked to return to the Legislature with a more concrete plan in the near future.