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Support grows for Emergency Services Training facilities on Palomar Fallbrook Campus

Jessica Ussher

Investigative Journalist Intern

On Nov. 7, 2006, voters approved a resolution (Proposition M) from the Palomar Governing Board requesting $694 million to maintain and modernize the San Marcos campus and to create new educational opportunities in underserved areas of the district. Following the approved resolution, the Fallbrook Campus was created with labs, classrooms, an administration building and parking, located near I-15 and SR 76.

However, there is still between 45 to 55 million dollars (from Prop M) available to start a second phase for the building of the Fallbrook Education Center which would be located on an additional 55 acres of buildable land that is available. The building is set to commence in the spring of 2024.

The focus of the Fallbrook Education Center presently includes English as Second Language (ESL) /non-credit courses, Arts courses and a Child Development Certificate course.

The center will also include classes for an Associate of Transfer Degree in Sociology, Preparation for Nursing, Biology and Psychology, Middle/Early College for high school students, a library center with student support services and Food and Health programs. There are also plans for faculty offices and student lounge spaces on site.

Although plans to build the education center are confirmed, there are considerations challenging the agreement. Based on the Governing Report of August 2023, Palomar's Career Technical, and Extended Education program noted that their Police, Fire and Paramedic training programs are in leased buildings that are significantly constrained by space.

Local North County Fire Protection District Chief Keith McReynolds has been outspoken to the Palomar College Board of Directors about how expanding the space for emergency services training would increase the amount of trained personnel in these areas and address the vacancies within the local public safety industry.

Local Fallbrook Planning Group member and Palomar College District board member Jacqueline Kaiser agrees.

McReynolds wrote in a letter to Palomar Superintendent/President Star Rivera-Lacey, Ph.D., "As the need for public safety services increases across our growing region, so does the need for expanded public safety educational programs and facilities. The Fallbrook campus is near Riverside County which may make the campus location appealing to Riverside County residents. This would be a benefit in an age of recruitment challenges. Expanded recruitment efforts, Fire/EMS programs and facilities will all be needed to sustain a healthy program and candidate pool in the future. The Fallbrook site may meet some of these needs."

Previously, the college discussed the possibility of building a Public Safety Center on the Fallbrook site, but concerns about the size, location near residences and transportation, and proximity to district's Agency Partners halted progress.

However, it has also been announced that the County of San Diego has purchased an 18-acre parcel on the corner of Highway 15 and SR 76 across from the Fallbrook Education Center. This location will provide for a 40,000+ square foot facility to serve as a staging/training center for both police and fire operations for the region.

This recent announcement from the County of San Diego has prompted the request that the board reconsider allocating funds for a Public Safety Training Facility on the property.

The board has received letters of support from the North County Fire Protection District and the Fallbrook Community Planning Group.

At the Fallbrook Planning Group's Oct. 16 meeting, the following motion was made and passed unanimously.

"We recommend that the Palomar College Board of Trustees consider ways to partner and collaborate with local safety officials to enhance public safety training opportunities at the Fallbrook Education Center, through integrating the services of the future Palomar Fallbrook Education Center and the County of San Diego's planned Regional Safety Center."

There is also another $55 million slated from Prop M funding that was allocated by the previous board for projects, possibly athletics.

Kaiser, who represents Fallbrook and Bonsall on the Palomar Community College Board of Directors, said, "It has been noted at many local Fallbrook Planning Group meetings that there is a significant need to fill several vacant public safety positions in our community and surrounding areas.

"Palomar College also has a need for space to expand their Public Safety Training program. Given the recent announcement that the County of San Diego has plans to build a regional center in the same vicinity as the Fallbrook Education Center, I am requesting the following: The Board reconsider the Fallbrook Education Center for a Public Safety Training facility... to break ground 2024. The Board research the possibility of a collaboration with other local public safety officials to develop a comprehensive program/facility at the Fallbrook Education Center."

According to Kaiser, "All of the area mayors we approached are behind this initiative."

She continued, "This item will be on the Palomar Community College Board of Trustees regular meeting agenda on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 5 p.m. Those who wish to add their voices to this discussion are encouraged to attend in person or via a zoom link provided by the college. The information is available at http://www.palomar.edu and search for Palomar Board of Trustees."

 

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