PERRYSBURG – Owens Community College introduced construction of a new $10 million facility to increase preparedness, training and skills of emergency services in the Great Lakes region.
The state-of-the-art facility features a Command and Simulation Center for Regional Anti-Terrorism and Emergency Management, located on 110 acres. Similar regional centers are located in VIrginia, Georgia, Texas and California.
The architectural firm Poggemeyer Design Group Inc. in Bowling Green will design the complex. The college’s new center has received $1.125 million in funding from the state.
Brad Meyer, public relations coordinator for Owens Community College said the construction of the entire facility will be finished in three to five years. He said the first phase of the project will be completed in a year, with no exact date for completion scheduled yet.
Owens President Christa Adams and Board of Trustee members joined community leaders, safety forces, area residents and employees in celebrating the groundbreaking program.
State Fire Marshal Stephen K. Woltz, the keynote speaker at the ceremony, said, “This homeland security center serves as an example to what can be accomplished in partnerships.”
He said before 1993, terrorism only happened only foreign soil. He said we have to be increasingly adaptable to handle these types of attacks and the center will help us overcome the challenges that lie ahead.
“We have to fight a 21st-century enemy in a 21st-century way,” Woltz said.
Owens signed an agreement with the Ohio Fire Academy in 2002 to provide college coursework to full and part-time firefighters from all over the state.
Adams said, “Owens Community College is recognized as a nationwide leader within emergency response training. The construction of the new Fire and Police Training Center for Homeland Security demonstrates this college’s responsiveness to providing area safety forces with the highest educational level in multi-agency, scenario training.
Police, fire and emergency services personnel throughout the country place their lives in harms way to ensure our safety and protection. Owens Community College is proud and deeply committed to playing a critical part in their training efforts and securing our future.”
U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-Old Fort) said homeland security is a higher priority than it ever has been in this country. He said it is an expenditure that is absolutely necessary.
“The money we’re spending now, we should have spent in the past,” he said. “We’re playing catch up. We’re not going to be able to stop every attack that takes place.”
A group of leaders in emergency services and homeland security will assist the college in the planning stages of the facility. Phil Keith, Chief of Police for the city of Knoxville, Tennessee will lead the project’s development.
He has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement and was appointed to the Homeland Security Senior Advisory Committee by President Bush in 2002. He currently is a member of Secretary Tom Ridge’s Homeland Security cabinet.
Phase 1 of the initial project will be to install the infrastructure of water lines, gas lines and fiber optic cable.
The first phase construction will also include a smokeless burn building and an observation tower. Additional phases will include a mock city and other simulation scenarios.
Seneca County Sheriff Thomas Steyer said he would like to send officers to the center training center after construction is completed. He said the training is free for the officers but would have to pay overtime to those attending instruction.
“How often we could have people attend, I have no idea,” Steyer said. “It depends on scheduling and our man power.”
05/01/2004 Matt Suman, .advertiser-tribune.com