Fire, law enforcement say bond would help them

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 1, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

KANNAPOLIS — Kannapolis Chief of Police Woody Chavis said that tactical teams train wherever they can. Sometimes it’s houses under construction, or buildings that have been condemned. He said he’s seen stairs collapse under teams, or men fall through the floor when those buildings aren’t structurally sound.

“We have a hard time finding places for us to train,” he said Monday at a meeting with the Rowan-Cabarrus Comunity College board of trustees.

Kannapolis police have sent personnel as far away as Albuquerque, N.M., to receive specialized tactical training.

But Rowan-Cabarrus President Carol Spalding said a bond up for vote on the March 15 ballot could allow the college to change that.

The Connect NC Bond Act is a $2 billion bond package marked for capital improvements across the state, $350 million of which has been promised to the state’s 58 community colleges. Co-chair of the 2016 Connect NC Bond Act Campaign Dakeita Vanderburg-Johnson said that at least $1 million of the $7.2 million RCCC would receive from that package will go to upfitting and outfitting the school’s fire and emergency services training grounds.

Construction plans include a five-story training tower, a tactical training area for law enforcement, a classroom pavilion and working restrooms.

“These are things we heard are needed out there,” Spalding said.

Phase one of the fire and emergency services area was built thanks to the 2010 Rowan County Bond Referendum, which allowed for the construction of the school’s current training grounds and commercial burn building.

“That has been welcomed into this community,” Vanderberg-Johnson said.

Should the Connect NC Bond Act pass, the funds will help the training grounds reach their “full potential,” Vanderberg-Johnson said.

RCCC’s fire and emergency services program experienced a 13 percent growth between 2013 and 2014, she said. Vice President Craig Lamb said that fire and emergency services training comprises about half of all corporate and continuing education.

“I’m not sure that building’s cooled off since we’ve opened it,” he said.

At the Monday meeting, local law enforcement and fire officials spoke in praise of the program and the current grounds, and explained the need for an expansion.

Tracy Winecoff, deputy fire chief of Kannapolis, said that the current grounds have saved the department a lot of money. Kannapolis Fire used to send firefighters to Gaston or Cleveland counties to access a commercial burn building – a trip that could cost up to $20,000 a day if an entire shift was sent.

“So it’s been a huge asset to us,” he said.

Chavis said that a tower and tactical training grounds would allow officers to train for building searches, one of the most frequent and dangerous tasks they’re called upon to do.

Phase two plans also include video surveillance of training maneuvers, which allow trainees to watch a replay and see where they went wrong. Chavis said the only other location to offer video playback as a tactical training learning tool is Fort Bragg.

“I have waited for many years for something like this to happen in our area,” he said.

The bond also offers significant savings to the people of Cabarrus and Rowan counties, Vanderburg-Johnson said. An additional $3.2 million would be put towards building projects and renovating North Campus buildings 100, 200, 500 and 700, while the remaining $3 million would be used to expand the South Campus and Cabarrus Business and Technology facilities.

“We’ve gotta make it work,” Short said.

The 2016 Connect NC Bond Act will be presented to voters for approval on the March 15 ballot and would fund higher education, parks, agricultural initiatives, state parks, the National Guard and water and sewer projects across the state.

 Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.