Site in Inver Grove Heights eyed for training facility with a focus on crisis intervention

Dakota County has zeroed in on a site for the SMART Center – a future regional training center for crisis intervention and other collaborative efforts among law enforcement and other first responders.  

The County Board approved an agreement at its Feb. 5 meeting to purchase 6.27 acres west of the junction of Highway 55/52 and Concord Boulevard in southern Inver Grove Heights.

The purchase price is $1.08 million.

Last year, the county obtained $6.2 million in state bond funding through a competitive process for the planning, design, land acquisition and construction of a 35,000-square-foot Safety and Mental Health Alternative Response Training Center, which would be completed in April 2021. The county pledged that it would put $6.6 million into the project.

The county reported that the purchase price is within in the project’s budget.

A closing date will be set after the agreements are approved by the county and the city of Inver Grove Heights.

The County Board voted to remove a provision that the city of Inver Grove Heights could use of the training facility and meeting rooms at no cost to the city after Board Members Mike Slavik and Mary Liz Holberg expressed concerns about a carve out just for one city.

Taud Hoopingarner, county operations management director, said that cities law enforcement groups have free use of the site for training and meetings, and the county would work with all cities to coordinate use of the site. He added he didn’t think removal of the provision would be an issue for the city of Inver Grove Heights.

The city said it would waive platting services at no cost to the county.

The center will provide office and training space for the Minnesota Crisis Intervention Team, as well as regional public safety training, Dakota County Electronic Crimes Unit, Dakota County Drug Task Force, Dakota County Criminal Justice Network, and Sheriff’s Water Rescue and Recovery Fleet (along with some Minnesota Department of Natural Resources watercrafts) that respond to regional needs.

In explaining the need for the center, the county said that state law requires that law enforcement officers complete crisis response training but currently there is no permanent facility for the training, which would also be used by firefighters, paramedics and other first responders.

Crisis response training teaches first responders new “soft skills” to improve their interaction with people experiencing a mental health crisis, according to the county. Law enforcement officials say the number of emergency calls involving people in crisis is growing.

The county plans to lease space in the SMART Center to a nonprofit organization that specializes in crisis response training. Police officers, sheriff’s deputies and others from around the Twin Cities and beyond are projected to use the facility.

When the county was awarded the bond funding, Burnsville-based 360 Communities, which has domestic abuse prevention efforts and services, and the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women looked forward to the center’s establishment.

“The Dakota County Electronic Crimes Unit is a crucial partner in supporting survivors of domestic and sexual violence,” said Ann Sheridan, 360 Communities director of violence prevention, in a press release. “The passage of this bonding bill and the expansion of this critical resource mean more justice for victims, accountability for perpetrators and a safer community for everyone.”

Inver Grove Heights’ Fire Station No. 2 is located adjacent to the future SMART Center.

Tad Johnson can be reached at

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