COTTAGE GROVE - It's time to hit the ground running - or digging.

The East Metro Public Safety Training Facility - formerly known as the HERO Center (Health and Emergency Response Occupations) - broke ground Oct. 11 and will be under construction until an estimated opening a year from now.

The center has been in the works since 2011, when the East Metro area officials noted a present and future lack for training facilities, as did the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, which recommended state bonding money for such a project.

"This is what it looks like when people work together to accomplish the needs of our communities and our residents for years to come," Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens said. "Our communities have and will continue to work together in the area of providing police, fire and emergency medical services."

During the 2018 legislative session, the cities asked for 50 percent of the project funding from the state. Gov. Mark Dayton earmarked $9.5 million in the $1.5 billion bonding bill.

Grove City Republican Dean Urdahl, chair of the House Capital Investment Committee, said at the groundbreaking ceremony that during a summer 2017 bonding tour they surveyed $4 billion worth of community requests.

"We certainly were attentive to your needs here," he said. "To be a successful bonding project you have to have a regional significance and has to have a definite impact on the public, and this certainly does."

What's in store

For the last seven years, Cottage Grove Police Department Capt. Greg Rinzel and Woodbury Police Department Cmdr. Kris Meinert, along with a team of city officials, worked tirelessly researching and pitching the shared project.

"During the years of planning, we knew it had to be much more that just firearm range or just classrooms," Cottage Grove Public Safety Director Pete Koerner said.

In addition to the gun range and classrooms, the facility will include a virtual simulator, reality-based training spaces, a mats room, an outdoors canine training area and paved outdoor training area with two houses set up for simulations.

The different spaces will be used for crisis intervention, negotiation, response-to-resistance, communication and de-escalation training.

"I always take a lot of pride in being in a line of work where I think the expectations for us are very, very high," Woodbury Public Safety Director Lee Vague said. "And in particular, working in a community and amongst communities where expectations are really, really high. We always do our very best to pick the right people and put them out there to serve all of us, but the other part of that equation is to make sure that they have the training and equipment that's necessary."

The center will be utilized by Cottage Grove and Woodbury Public Safety, as well as for several East Metro partners.

The firearm range will be available for East Metro residents to use as well.

"It's also going to prove beneficial to our local community, because there is a gun range in there that can be utilized in the public sector, so there's a lot of different things that this facility is going to benefit for all of our East Metro, and specifically the cities of Woodbury and Cottage Grove," Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey said.