Pittsburgh to use $400K designated for public safety training facility on road work

Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jake Pawlak blames the delay on inflation, high material costs and the worsening condition of on-site buildings


By Julia Felton
The Tribune-Review

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh City Council on Monday voted to reallocate more than $400,000 initially earmarked for a new public safety training facility in the city's Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood to road paving projects.

The decision comes after city leaders last week said there is no timetable on when construction may begin at the new public safety training facility. The cost to build it has likely gone up since prior estimates, Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jake Pawlak said. He cited inflation and high material costs for the delay, as well as the worsening condition of existing buildings on the site.

The city is leasing space to conduct training for firefighters and other public safety employees.
The city is leasing space to conduct training for firefighters and other public safety employees. (Photo/Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire)

The city has planned for years to build a new public safety training facility at the 168-acre site where the former Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System was located. The VA shuttered the facility in 2013, and the city acquired it to use for a massive training facility for police, firefighters, EMS and possibly other city personnel.

Officials initially estimated the training facility project would cost more than $100 million. Pawlak last week said the project would likely cost "considerably more than" $120 million at this point, but declined to offer a more specific estimate.

About $1.4 million was set aside for the project.

Council members on Monday voted to move about $400,000 initially earmarked for the project to road paving projects. The measure, sponsored by Council President Theresa Kail-Smith, will allow the cash to now be spent paving roads through various council districts, including Woodville Avenue and Grandview Avenue in Kail-Smith's District 2.

Councilman Bruce Kraus was the only council member to oppose the measure. During discussions about the legislation last week, he said he did not think the city should be taking away funding from a project that would help to provide the necessary funding to first responders.

This comes after City Council in June reallocated $1 million that had been earmarked for the public safety training facility to a project to convert Penn Circle into a two-way street.

Pawlak at the time said the administration intended to replenish that money in the next budget. Mayor Ed Gainey's proposed 2023 budget does not, however, include additional funding for the proposed public safety training facility.

Some council members last week suggested that they may want to explore new sites for the public safety training facility where work could progress faster and more cost-efficiently. That would leave the sprawling Lincoln-Lemington site available for other uses, council members said.

For now, the city is leasing space to conduct training for its public safety employees.

In June, the city extended a lease with the Community College of Allegheny County to continue using CCAC-owned property on North Lincoln Avenue for public safety training. The lease, which lasts through 2027, will cost the city more than $2 million.

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