Local officials gathered Thursday at a public showing of the new "Streetscape" at the Town of Colonie's Municipal Training Center in Latham.
The center is where area police, firefighters and EMS crews hold regular drills to better prepare for real-life scenarios. Colonie Town Supervisor Paula Mahan says last year the training center site provided emergency responders from throughout the Capital Region with more than 40,000 hours of training. "They can come here and have a realistic scenario, whether it's fighting a fire, rescuing a patient, looking for drugs, whatever it might be."
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple notes the next closest Streetscape is in Oriskany, about 100 miles away in Oneida County. "It's a good opportunity for fire departments to come in and train, be able to use and stop and drag hose, ambulance services to come in and train, certainly law enforcement to practice high felony vehicle stops, things of that nature. Although it doesn't look much, I think it's really a good opportunity and it's as lifelike as possible with, you know, you've got the mail containers, you got bus stops, street signs, everything."
The training center streetscape resembles a Hollywood movie set, anchored by the intersection of George Erwin Boulevard and Harp Wilson Way. "Harp Wilson was the very first town of Colonie Fire coordinator. He's also past chief of the Fuller Road Fire Department. George Erwin was his number two. He's no longer with us, he's deceased, but George Erwin was the town purchasing agent." Albany County Fire cooridinator Jerry Paris adds that Wilson and Erwin were on of the team that started the training facility in the 1960s.
At a cost of under $10,000, a section of divided highway (typical of residential streets in Colonie) was put down on a corner parcel of land at the Municipal Training Center on Wade Road. The ersatz “neighborhood" has two houses and there's a house trailer in the vicinity. There are road markings, stop signs, a CDTA bus shelter, mailboxes and utility poles — similar to what first responders would encounter in the field. Eventually a working traffic light will be installed as the site is upgraded.
"There's a big difference between working on a 'car pad,' a square piece where we do what we need, versus potentially rolling a car over right in an intersection. Now they're actually working on a true streetscape. What this really does for all our first responders, police, fire and EMS, it's revitalization. We're reinventing this training facility. This streetscape that we have here today adds something that we've never had before here in Colonie or in the region. And what this is gonna do, it's gonna spark that interest, it's gonna spark that feel that people wanna come, try it out, see what it's like, let's make our training be more realistic. The more realistic we can make any type of training scenario, people are like sponges, we all wanna learn, but this is gonna give somebody a new opportunity to learn techniques in a real-life scenario, but in a safe environment," said Paris.
110th district state Assemblyman Phil Steck points out that Colonie is a huge town, and stressed the importance of having a state-of-the-art training facility. "We have 83,000 people, we have approximately 10 fire companies throughout the town. The Colonie fire, volunteer fire companies have been at the heart of civic life in the town, since I've lived here 50 years."
Steck has arranged funding for additional upgrades to the site including $250,000 for capital improvements and $50,000 to further enhance the streetscape.