State taxpayers and the subgroup of Newspaper Readers Who Like to Blow Things Up might be pleased with a no-cost arrangement the York County Commissioners struck with the state Department of Transportation, allowing the county's SWAT-like team to use an old hotel for practice.
PennDOT bought the Budget Host Inn, on the southeast corner at Interstate 83 and Haines Road, just to raze the building and make room for a $60 million interchange improvement project at Exit 18, Prospect Street.
But the county's Quick Response Team, a tactical and negotiations team called out on a range of high-risk and volatile law-enforcement situations, will help the building go out with a boom — probably a series of them, actually.
Commissioners on Wednesday approved an insurance agreement allowing the team to use the sprawling, two-story building and other structures in the area for training exercises.
The arrangement to use the condemned hotel is a first, said District Attorney Chief Administrator Kyle King. The team has previously used grounds at York County's BAE Systems, a defense contractor, and other facilities for practice, Kyle said.
But this agreement allows the police officers to practice some things that might not be permitted in other venues: literally blowing the doors off — or in Kyle's terminology, "explosive breaching of doors."
Sgt. Craig Losty, a York City police officer who is the team's tactical commander, said the group has a facade of pre-made doors used for practice at the York County Fire School. "But it is very difficult to find actual buildings where people will let us do explosive breaching."
Unique chance: The agreement allows the group to destroy only interior doors and walls, Kyle said, and the dozens of rooms in the hotel afford the team a unique chance to practice numerous scenarios to prepare for real-world encounters.
Losty said dates have not yet been listed for the practice, but it's likely to be soon.
PennDOT spokesman Greg Penny said the demolition is imminent, and state officials were willing to lend the space because "it's in the public interest and provides an opportunity to practice their skills" on a building that's otherwise useless.
Back in March, the state Department of General Services sold everything of value from the hotel and other area buildings, including the former Mexitaly and Denny's restaurants, slated for demolition.
The interchange project will include a major reconstruction of the heavily traveled interchange to improve traffic safety and flow in the areas of Mount Rose Avenue in Spring Garden Township and Haines Road in Springettsbury Township.
The project is expected to go to bid in January.
— Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.