Bergen County officials announced on Friday a $16 million construction project to modernize the police and firefighter training grounds at the Law and Public Safety Institute in Mahwah.
Approved by the county Board of Commissioners in March, the project includes construction of three buildings on academy grounds — a five-story commercial building with a theater and mall, a two story strip mall and a two-story home. Officials said the goal is to simulate real-world situations, such as house fires and active shooters, as closely as possible in a safe, controlled environment.
County Executive Jim Tedesco said at a Friday morning news conference that the work will be the academy’s first major upgrade in decades.
“Technology has changed dramatically,” Tedesco said. “This complex was never built for anything like that. With these new buildings, we’ll be able to train those folks in the type of environment they’ll encounter when they go out there.”
Natoli Construction, a Pine Brook contractor, will perform the work. Officials expect it to be finished by the spring of 2023.
When it’s done, the facility is “absolutely going to be the number one, premier, cutting-edge academy not only in the state of New Jersey, but in the tri-state area,” Richard Blohm, the institute director, told a small crowd Friday morning.
The last improvement project at the Campgaw Road facility was in 2018, when the county spent $2.3 million to overhaul the police gun range.
Those upgrades followed a federal investigation into an uncovered pile of spent lead bullets that sat in the open on academy grounds for nearly a year after workers cleaned the old gun range.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency eventually fined the county $88,000 for its mistakes. The county paid the fee, remediated the site and built a new range that prevents the creation of the fine shrapnel and dust that later contaminates the soil.
Police, firefighters and emergency medical services from throughout the county, state and region train at the facility, officials said.
Steve Janoski covers law enforcement for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news about those who safeguard your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.