MARSHALL - With an extinguisher demonstration going on, and several fire trucks parked just outside, it was probably the safest cookout of all time.
Marshall residents were gathered at the Minnesota Emergency Response and Industrial Training Center on Thursday evening as part of an open house. Free food, displays and activities showcasing the center, as well as local emergency responders, were all part of the event.
The open house wasn't just about fun, however. It was an opportunity to educate the public. MERIT Center supporters were hoping to spread the word about the facility's importance as a training ground, and the ways it could be expanded if proposed local sales taxes are approved this November.
Photo by Deb Gau
Jaiden Bahr tried on some camouflage SWAT gear with a little help from Jason Buysse of the Marshall Police Department, during an open house at the MERIT Center on Thursday evening. The display was one of many booths and activities showcasing local emergency response teams and MERIT Center facilities.
"This is going to be huge for us," said MERIT Center board chairman Stan Brewers.
The sales tax vote isn't just about building an amateur sports center, Brewers said. The money raised through the tax would also go toward expansions at the MERIT Center, including a driving course. The driving course would provide a lot of benefit to the community, by offering a place for everything from police training to driving exams, and possibly even motorcycle or snowmobile safety courses, he said. Other additions are also planned for the MERIT Center, including a training prop that simulates an ethanol tanker and construction of a emergency response training area for confined spaces.
Construction of the driving course wouldn't depend solely on the proposed tax, Brewers said.
"The city already owns the land, and we already have $1 million from the state of Minnesota," he said. However, he said a "yes" vote was needed to get the project moving. The state funding wouldn't be available long enough to wait for another vote.
"If we can't make this happen . . . we can't use the $1 million," Brewers said.