BOUNTIFUL -- A group of SWAT officers is squeezing out every possible bit of use from a soon-to-be-razed building in Bountiful.
More than 20 officers from the Bountiful Metro Police and the Davis County SWAT team are using the former Davis/Bountiful Arts Center, at 745 S. Main St., to conduct extensive, real-world SWAT training.
The building was vacated Monday and will be torn down shortly to make way for the construction of a new Bountiful City Hall facility.
A new arts center will be in the new city hall building, which is expected to be finished and open for business in the next two years. The arts center is taking temporary residence at the old county courthouse in Farmington.
Bountiful Assistant Police Chief Ed Biehler said the empty building gives officers a chance to conduct SWAT training in an unfamiliar environment, which is what they face in the real world.
"This (building) is perfect for what we're trying to do," Biehler said. "It's a lot different than going into a building that you know and are familiar with, where you know the layout and you know what's around every corner. And it's different than a gun range where you have no physical barriers."
Biehler said his officers do SWAT training twice every month, and whenever a building becomes available, the department jumps at the opportunity to use it.
"It's not like you have an empty building to work out of all the time, so when one becomes available to us, we have to take advantage."
On Wednesday, officers spent about eight hours working on basic building-clearing concepts.
The officers started out with a few hours of classroom instruction, then headed to the building to work on techniques they would use when doing such things as serving a search warrant.
"This (training) basically covers everything we do when we slowly and methodically clear a building," Biehler said.
During Wednesday's training, officers didn't use their weapons, but they will next week when training sessions become more intense.
"Next week, we're going to be stepping things up and doing some breaching -- breaking windows, kicking down doors," Biehler said.
The idea behind the training is to do it as often as possible, while making it as real as possible, in an effort to make a seamless transition from the training to the real world, he said.
"This is really just about repetition. It's like practicing for a sport: When you do it over and over again in practice, it's going to feel natural when you have to go out and do it in the real world."
Paul Rowland, city engineer, said the building is scheduled to be torn down by a backhoe Feb. 18.
Last week, volunteers helped move the contents of the arts center to its new location at the old courthouse in Farmington. The move left Emma Dugal, arts center director, with mixed feelings.
"I'm quite fond of this building. It's bittersweet," she said of the move and relocation.
She said she knows the relocation to Farmington for two years or more, while crews build the new city hall and renovate new digs for the arts center, will be positive.
Mayor Joe Johnson estimates work on the new city hall will also begin by early February. He said crews will need to do some asbestos mitigation as part of the demolition.
The construction package cost for all of the projects has been estimated at $7.2 million, with $2.4 million in RDA funds targeted for renovation of the existing city hall and approximately $4.8 million coming from capital reserve funds for the new city hall.
Officials have stressed the projects will not require a tax increase.
Standard-Examiner correspondent Antone Clark contributed to this article.