SUNLAND PARK, New Mexico (Border Report) – Growth and the need to respond to the challenges of its border location are driving this town’s need for a new public safety building.

Federal officials acknowledged those needs and recently informed city leaders that they will be getting $950,000 for the project. Mayor Javier Perea says the money will be used for a feasibility study.

“This is a building we hope will encompass a new firehouse and police department and be a little more centric in the community. Our hope is this will help improve the insurance rate in our community, but also provide additional space for our police and firefighters,” the mayor told Border Report.

Police officers, firefighters and city employees operate out of a building that was an elementary school in the 1970s. Sunland Park grew by 18 percent in the previous 10 years, according to the 2020 Census. And in the past three years, its first responders have had to adapt to a new normal of increased migrant-related calls.

The current Sunland Park Police building. (Border Report photo)

“We are right on the U.S.-Mexico border and that has brought new challenges: numerous calls of migrants hiding in private property, suspicious activity calls and also medical calls,” Perea said.

The Sunland Park Fire Department for a while was responding to at least one daily call involving injured migrants who fell while scaling the border wall from Juarez, Mexico, or slipped while coming down Mount Cristo Rey, which straddles the U.S. and Mexico. The police department also has learned to be on the lookout for migrants lost in the desert and showing signs of dehydration to render aid.

“We’ve had to retrofit vehicles to access those desert areas, so our fire and police departments have had an increase in calls and also our equipment has had (to be retrofitted) to work in that environment outside the city,” Perea said.

Plans call for the new complex to have more bays for fire trucks, the acquisition of a ladder truck and the incorporation of a new ambulance service. He declined to identify a potential location for the complex.

“We need a centralized place to reduce response time. We do have a pretty good response time now, but people want to make sure we can be there on time in an emergency,” he said.