NOTE TO READER: For the past couple of weeks, I have been dedicating my time to research the $126 million school bond package slated to be on the March 3 primary ballot. The bonds will be listed as follows on the ballot: 1) Iredell County School Bonds (K-12) and 2) Iredell County Community College Bonds.
These school bond referendums are the result of a two and one-half year study by the Iredell County Facilities Task Force and includes funds of $115.5 million for a new middle school for Mooresville Graded School System, as well as a new high school for Iredell-Statesville Schools and $10.5 million for an Emergency Services Training Facility for Mitchell Community College.
Therefore, for clarity, I am going to divide my research and thoughts on the school bond referendum into two blogs since this is the way they are presented on the upcoming election ballot:
Part 1 of the blog will discuss the benefits for Mitchell Community College (this week)
Part 2 of the blog will discuss the benefits for Iredell County Schools (next week)
In this first blog, I will be addressing my findings regarding the needs of Mitchell Community College, and how the issuance of $10.5 million for an Emergency Service Training Facility is beneficial to the Iredell County Community.
Mitchell community college is more than just a beautiful historic building. The campus opens doors to opportunities that far exceed any classroom — Mitchell Community College provides opportunity for this community.
I personally understand the importance of Mitchell Community College within our community as I was fortunate enough to have received the opportunity to attend and receive my Associate in Business degree from the college. During my time there, I received a well-rounded education taught by encouraging instructors. My time at Mitchell Community College prepared me with the business knowledge and personal growth I would need for my future.
There is one aspect about Mitchell Community College that I took for granted at that young age — an aspect that many of us often overlook — location. As a student here in Iredell County, I was easily able to commute to the college because of its convenient location. And I was able to attend classes as a full-time student and still work full-time. This is an important factor in the life of a working yet learning student.
Beyond providing a conveniently accessible campus where students can access a quality education, the college shows a return on the investment of our students and the public. In fact, in a recent economic study, it was determined that Mitchell had a $193 million dollar impact in our county in the 2018 fiscal year. Not only does the college provide a variety of academic curriculum degrees that set students on the path to a four-year college, Mitchell is also turning its focus to on continuing education programs, and technical and vocational degrees.
Just as one example, I think of the impact that Mitchell Community College’s public safety programs have had on this community.
This program has provided training and certification to more than 1500 law enforcement, fire, emergency medical service, emergency management, tele-communicator, paramedics and detention officers.
In speaking with James Hogan, Vice President of Advancement for the college, I learned that the growth of these public safety programs have grown tremendously in recent years. As our local communities grow, the need for public safety professionals will increase with it. In the past five years alone, enrollment has doubled for the fire training and emergency medical service has doubled; and enrollment for the law enforcement training has increased by 400 percent.
This educational investment within the occupational workforce has generated a positive impact within the community.
Our local public safety leaders have especially benefitted from the graduates of Mitchell Community College's public safety programs.
In a conversation I had with Chief David Addison of the Statesville Police Department, he noted that the department has “employed several impressive officers” from Mitchell’s Basic Law Enforcement Training program which he described as “one of many viable opportunities for individuals to participate in public service.”
It is encouraging to see our local Statesville police department working with the college in its efforts to lead interested citizens to take these occupational courses, which ultimately qualify them for a position in the growing field of public safety. And on multiple occasions, students have been sponsored by the department in their studies via the basic law-enforcement training program; a type of personal investment with the goal of creating a retention/hiring program.
Addison also added that the Statesville Police Department is looking for individuals that want to serve their community and is excited to be excepting applications via its police recruitment program. Please see the attached article:
Another example of how Mitchell Community College’s public safety classes impact this community can be reflected within the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office. Darren Campbell, Sheriff of Iredell County, who felt that there is “a high demand for trained law enforcement” here in Iredell County, shared with me that he currently has three of his Detention Officers enrolled and working their way through Mitchell Community College’s Basic Law Enforcement Certification. And in fact, during Campbell’s years of training years, he took classes from the very same program.
This is just a small example of how the training and education that MCC provides has such an impact on our community.
THE CURRENT CHALLENGES:
There are challenges that are hampering the growth of the public safety training program.
Currently, the program operates out of the basement of the Continuing Education building, that is almost 100 years old, and there is not enough classroom space to furnish the growing student interest.
Furthermore, the driving instruction portion of the public safety programs has been hampered due to lack of a proper location. According to David Bullins, Director of Public Safety program, the current space for driving instruction is limited, with the classes having to train at a variety of locations, which is an inefficient use of the staff or student’s time.
And with a public safety program, a driving pad is an essential component since it is a required aspect of the training. Limited training does not match up with growth.
Bullins, like many others, are ready for the next generation of training at Mitchell Community College; an opportunity to provide the essential requirements of a course in one location.
According to a local newspaper article on the school bond, Dr. Tim Brewer, President of Mitchell, stated that the bond was necessary to assist the college with the growing needs of the community. Regardless of if this bond is passed by voters on March 3, the college will still need to build the training facility to accommodate its growing number of students; but if that is the case, the construction will certainly be delayed.
And that means that this lack of funding will create a gap in the necessary training time needed for the growing number of students interested in the program. And that means that these students will have to seek training and education outside the county.
So I ask our county voters, why should our students lack the necessary resources that they desperately need, right here in Iredell County?
THE FACILITY AND WHY IT IS NEEDED:
If voters check ‘yes’ for the Iredell County Community College Bonds on March 3, an investment of $10.5 million dollars will be allocated to Mitchell Community College for an Emergency Services Training Facility.
The training facility is to house additional classrooms, equipment storage, and a 600-foot by 600-foot driving pad for MCC’s public safety program.
The training facility would provide additional instructional classroom space and equipment storage, and the driving pad would be used for driving training — for both student’s of the college and for countywide agency partners to train emergency responders.
In weighing the benefits in that the construction of this Emergency Services Training Facility will go far in providing future prospective students of law enforcement, emergency medical training, firefighting and other public safety programs the space and room they need for a well-rounded, fully-inclusive education, while also considering the the challenges that prevent themselves in the present with the program’s current location, I support the Iredell County Community College Bonds.
Our Iredell County students deserve to have modern and effective facilities to allow them to thrive in their area of interest, and in this scenario, we need to empower the next generation of students interested in public safety, giving them the proper facilities and training needed to generate optimum first responders that will serve Iredell County residents in the near future.
With the proper facility structure in place, Mitchell Community College will not only be able to provide the public safety training needed for students, but furthermore, this program will allow more of our public safety students to learn and train close to home.
Furthermore, if voters approve the referendums during the March 3 election, the projected tax increase to 53.75 cents per $100 of valuation would still keep Iredell County at one of the lowest tax rates in the region.
Overall, I do support the school bond because this is an investment in our county’s school systems. To make our school systems even greater, it falls upon us as county residents and leaders to provide the needed faculties for our students.