ESCONDIDO — The city has big plans for the dilapidated Police Headquarters on West Grand Avenue, but until something “bigger and better” comes along, said Councilman John Masson, a Warfighter Academy was approved Wednesday to take over the building for two years.
Councilmembers had some reservations about the Academy, including the aggressive name, but after hearing a presentation from the owners, they unanimously approved the lease agreement.
Dave Maynard, co-owner, told the council the goal of the program is rehabilitation of wounded veterans. He said aside from tactical training, the Academy would also support veterans’ journey to recovery.
“It’s how you bring them back mentally and physically,” Maynard said.
He is a disabled veteran so he says he knows what it’s like to have to be put back together.
The building is located at the gateway to the city, and residents expressed concern that it would tarnish Escondido’s image.
“This is not an appropriate use for a prime entrance to our downtown. This space should be preserved for a premiere place,” resident Patricia Borchmann told the council.
Nobody has come to city council with the resources to put in something else, said City Manager Clay Phillips.
Sonny Garcia, co-owner of the Academy said the signage would be discreet, with just the initials of a W and an A out front.
Maynard said the name honors those who have served and were wounded in combat.
The lease agreement allows the Academy to operate in the former police headquarters at 700 West Grand Ave. for two years.
In exchange for investing $120,000 to bring the building up to code, the Academy will get 18 months of free rent and pay nearly $5,000 a month after that.
The city will be saving $18,000 a year on utilities and $36,000 in liability. As it is now, transients break into the building often, according to Real Property Manager for the city Debra Lundy.
The public will be welcome to join the Academy, which will offer martial arts and tactical training but must be approved through extensive background checks, according to Garcia.
The Escondido Police Department will also have access to the Academy for free and
Councilman Ed Gallo said there would be no weapons or live fire in the building.
Assistant Chief of Police Bob Benton approves of the Academy, according to property manager Lundy.
In two years, the city will have the option to renew the lease. All of the councilmembers said they hope to have something more spectacular there.