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Aldermen Back Plan To Purchase Land For Police & Fire Training Academy

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Emanuel administration's plan to build a new $95 million police and fire training academy cleared one of its first hurdles on Monday, as a City Council panel backed plans to purchase the 30 acres of West Side land for the project.

The Housing Committee signed off Monday on the $9.6 million purchase of vacant land in the West Garfield Park neighborhood. The full City Council was scheduled to vote on the deal on Wednesday.

Keith Calloway, deputy chief of the Chicago Police Department Education and Training Division, said new public safety training facilities are long overdue.

"I've been on the job 31 years now, and at the academy I ran those same floors and same walls 31 years ago," he said.

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) was among those supporting the project. He said the proposed facility at 4301 W. Chicago Ave. would bring more economic development to the West Garfield Park neighborhood.

"Kudos that we have chosen an area that has high crime and high poverty," he said.

However, Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) said there is still some community opposition to the training center, because of a lack of trust in the Chicago Police Department.

"So, when you say here's $95 million for your training, there's a level of skepticism," she said.

JJ Ueunten, an organizer with the LGBT group Invisible to Invincible, said they support development, "but not for increased investing in police while essential services such as education, health care services, mental health services, immigration services, and after-school programs are being cut."

The city plans to use $20 million from the sale of a North Side fleet facility to help fund the project. The remaining $75 million would come from selling other surplus property.

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