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At a Klamath Community College Board of Education meeting on Wednesday night, KCC faculty updated board members on the status of an $8 million effort to construct an industrial trades center and plans for a new campus Klamath County Sheriff’s Office substation.

Charles “Chip” Massey, Director of Workforce Development at KCC, spoke at the meeting for the KCC Foundation — the group spearheading fundraising for the trades center.

KCC announced plans for the Apprenticeship and Industrial Trades Center and Fire Academy in September.

KCC Public Information Officer Lacey Jarrell said the center would improve industrial trades and skills training at KCC for careers in electrical, plumbing, millwright, pipe-fitter and machinist jobs.

Jarrell said preliminary design concepts estimate the new center would span five acres and be almost 12,000 square feet.

The center would also include a 3,200-square-foot fire academy, she said.

In August, the State of Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission approved a grant matching request to put $4 million toward the center if KCC raises $4 million from the community in matching funds.

Jarrell said KCC has so far secured $321,000 toward that $4 million — about eight percent of their goal.

“The campaign committee is feeling very confident about getting those final goal numbers,” Massie told board members at the meeting.

Commissioners’ involvement

At a Klamath County Commissioners’ meeting on Nov. 28, KCC Foundation Campaign Committee Co-chair Jean Penninger and other supporters requested a $150,000 county donation for the center.

On Dec. 5, county commissioners Derrick DeGroot, Donnie Boyd and Kelley Minty-Morris discussed the request, but did not come to a final decision.

Boyd said he had worked with county council Mika Blain and to see if the county could “liberate funds” from the building department to fulfill KCC’s request.

Boyd said he and Blain discovered state statute would not allow them to simply give $150,000 from building department funds to KCC.

Options for funding

However, Boyd, DeGroot and Morris discussed the idea of waiving some building permit fees for the center as means of financial help.

Boyd said that the state does not mandate how much they charge for building permits, and DeGroot suggested pledging a discount to KCC for the project.

Boyd said he would likely be fine with that but also wanted to create a plan or policy to address future requests to waive building permit fees. He said he didn’t want to set a precedent of regularly granting permit fee waivers.

The commissioners all expressed support for a KCC permit fee waiver — and agreed it likely would not exceed the $150,000 request from KCC — but on Blain’s suggestion, decided to hold off on an official decision to go through details of the plan.

DeGroot, who also co-chairs the KCC Capital Campaign Committee, said the building permits for the center would likely cost $300,000-$400,000.

DeGroot told The Herald and News that he was letting commissioners Boyd and Morris take the lead with the financial decision regarding the center because of his position on the KCC committee.

“I am trying to respect the integrity of the board,” he said.

Lack of young talent pressing

DeGroot said he was supporting construction of the trades center because there is a lack of young, skilled trades workers in Klamath County and across the country. He said the average age of a trades workers is 55, and he worried there was no current “pipeline” to get younger people into trades careers.

“In Oregon, KCC is the only one really addressing this need in a meaningful way,” he said. “This project, if we can get it off the ground, works as quickly as possible to start infusing that pipeline with a younger workforce.”

DeGroot said he hoped the board would reach a decision regarding a donation or building permit waiver by next week.

Sheriff’s substation on campus

The KCC Board also went over details of a contract between the school and the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office to create a KCSO substation on campus.

In September, the two organizations announced plans to house a KCSO patrol sergeant on campus. This means KCC will no longer pay the salary of a campus safety officer, or continue its current arrangement of having KCSO drive through campus for security checks.

The sergeant will be a .75 time sergeant at KCC, with the school paying three quarters (about $100,00) of their salary per year, and KCSO paying the other quarter.

The sergeant will be armed.

KCSO Lt. Randy Swan said the agreement contract has been approved but not officially signed into action.

Swan said he hadn’t heard of other arrangements like this between law enforcement and schools around the state. He said most schools either hire armed campus security or, if they are large enough, contract with their own police departments.

“We’re hoping it could be some sort of pilot program,” Swan said.

Swan couldn’t give a timeline of when the sergeant would be hired and start at KCC, but said KCSO was working on a job description while waiting for the contract to be signed.

In an email, KCC president Dr. Roberto Gutierrez said he hoped to have a patrol sergeant in place before spring.

“We will continue working closely with the sheriff’s office to ensure all requirements for establishing a sheriff substation at KCC are met,” Gutierrez said.

At the KCC board meeting, board member Mike Fitzgerald shared qualms about creating a “police state” at KCC with the presence of a sergeant.

“I’m concerned that the students will be treated with all due deference, just as any citizen would be,” Fitzgerald said.

Gutierrez described conversations he’d had with KCSO about focusing the position specifically on campus safety, and to not include things like running license plates through databases to look for criminals.