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Funds Approved for Plans on Emergency Workers Academy in Texas

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- After losing a crucial lease on a burn building for training firefighters, San Antonio College has been looking for a new spot to train. Now, it looks like the school will build its own place.

Trustees for Alamo Community Colleges on Tuesday night voted to spend $241,000 to draw up plans for a First Responders Academy, to be located on 60 acres on the South Side.

The academy won t be restricted to SAC students. Officials envision it as a place where small-town police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians across South Texas can come to train.

Community colleges have become the primary trainers for first responders. This is kind of a national trend, Chancellor Bruce Leslie said. We are simply trying to make more facilities available.

Nearly 80 percent of the nation s firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians receive their credentials from community colleges, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

The district closed last week on a $680,000 parcel of land on Interstate 35 near Von Ormy, said Robert Zeigler, president of San Antonio College. On Tuesday, trustees hired Marmon Mok and Broaddus + Project Control to start planning and designing the academy.

In addition to a burn building, the academy will house a firing range, a driving course and training facilities for swift water rescue and hazardous materials.

The academy will incorporate new computerized technology that s kinder to the environment than the old method of creating smoke by burning old tires and hay, Zeigler said.

With new facilities, enrollment in SAC s firefighter, police and EMT programs could grow. Now, SAC enrolls about 1,000 students in its criminal justice program, about 280 in fire science and 140 in emergency medicine, Zeigler said.

This is something we have needed to do for a long time, he said. Right now, we don t really have a facility for our fire program. We just have to borrow and rely on the good will of people in the community.

In other business, trustees voted to spend $2.5 million to make pay more equitable for veteran staff members, the second part of a compensation plan that has raised pay for staff across the district.

Trustees also voted to expand and create outposts in Comal and Wilson counties. In the Hill Country, the Central Texas Technology Center will expand to New Braunfels, offering academic and work force programs in food manufacturing and production. In Wilson, the district will create the Floresville Early College Technology Center, offering dual credit to high school students as well as work force education for local residents.

mludwig@express-news.net

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