Sheriff’s Regional Training Facility Opens

In other September 11th news the new Sheriff’s Regional Training Facility celebrated it’s grand opening yesterday. But not without a bit of controversy.

OC Sheriff's Regional Training Facility

For 37 years, Rancho Santiago Community College District and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) have maintained a partnership that creates and delivers cutting-edge training to local law enforcement recruits. Their jointly-operated academy provides training for recruits from numerous Southern California agencies, as well as for recruits headed for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.  Over time, the old facility used for this purpose became inadequate to meet modern-day demands.  

Using land conveyed by the City of Tustin, Rancho Santiago Community College District has remedied the problem, building this state-of-the-art Training Academy on 15 acres of the former Marine Corps Air Station.  Developed by a project team including the architect and Santa Ana college stakeholders, the new Academy provides much-needed instructional space, and guarantees state-of-the-art training will remain available to recruits who will serve throughout the southland.  

Voters who approved $156 million in construction bonds for the college in 2002 were promised that the majority of the money would go toward a new math and science building, a parking facility, a child-care center and other campus improvements. Voters were also told that $10 million would be spent on a new sheriff’s training facility.

However, the sheriff’s center has since swallowed $30 million in bond money, while other projects have received less than what was promised – or nothing at all. The Rancho Santiago Community College District asked for more bond money for several of the same projects last November, but was shut down by voters. – OCRegister Investigation, Tony Saavedra

Designed by the architectural firm gkkworks, with Bernards serving as construction contractor, and C.W. Driver performing construction management, the 52,000-square- foot facility has been eagerly awaited by staff and recruits alike.   

The diversity of training environments needed for law enforcement recruits is evident.  The Academy features four lecture classrooms.  Each is fully outfitted with media equipment to enhance instruction, and provides instructional space for up to 92 recruits in the large classrooms.  The Academy’s outdoor space substantially extends the instructional area, including an obstacle course, running path, and open areas used for training drills and recruit inspections – all without encroaching on the area needed for building maintenance.    

Inside the building, a main hallway joins the gymnasium, weight training room, and locker rooms that support physical development with the classrooms that support academic preparation.  Santa Ana College and OCSD staff who conduct instruction, the reserve officer training program, the video production unit, and the Academy’s daily business operations are housed in 38 quick-to-access offices.  A large multipurpose room with movable wall partitions maximizes flexibility for the Academy’s diverse operational needs.  The room can be quickly transformed to handle activities such as individual weight training, student and staff dining, and large-scale physical training before being converted for an evening’s graduation activities seating up to 1,500 occupants. 

On the exterior, the new building reflects an awareness of the site’s history, blending well with the adjacent historic blimp hangars.  Old curved arches resembling the form of the two blimp hangars were utilized at the lobby entry, and over the gymnasium / multipurpose space.   

A memorial dedicated to Orange County’s fallen peace officers of all agencies will soon be built, and will become the site of the county’s annual Peace Officer Memorial Ceremony and Candlelight Vigil.  Bearing too many memorial plaques, and bordered by a meditative walkway, the peaceful passage silently embodies OCSD’s core values of honor and history, while presenting a clear reminder of the very real need for the training provided here.  

While the Academy’s simple but modern palette of materials evokes memories of the past, it also generates a bold statement for this new training facility.  Traditional glass, steel, aluminum, and masonry block have all been restructured to achieve a striking new look, and a new commitment to California’s environment.  The building envelope (designed with SCE Savings by Design guidelines) was designed to exceed California Energy Code requirements.  A few examples:  

  • Floors and finishes are made of sustainable materials.
  • Passive solar design concepts were applied throughout the site.
  • Use of environmental glass in predominantly north-facing glass window walls provides natural day lighting, while reflecting unwanted solar gain in the morning.
  • Use of reflective roof finishes also reduces unwanted solar gain.   
  • Parking areas utilize new sustainable biofilter swales to keep sediments from running off the site. 

The Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy was constructed using Measure E funds at a cost of $30.2 million  Measure E, approved by voters in November 2002, provided Rancho Santiago Community College District $337 million for renovation and new construction at both Santa Ana and Santiago Canyon Colleges.  The Academy’s audio-visual equipment was installed at cost of $534,000, primarily funded through a special Homeland Security grant obtained by OCSD, for the purpose of improving their law enforcement training.

Critics, however, protest what they see as bait-and-switch tactics that have become a staple of school bond campaigning since the passage of Proposition 39 in 2000. The state measure lowered the number of votes needed to approve a new school bond, while requiring school districts to list the projects that would be built. Tony Saavedra, OCRegister

The new facility has not been without its critics.  Allegations have been made the the Rancho Santiago Community College District Board engaged in a bait and switch action on the voters.  The critics claim that other needs that were supposed to be funded by the bond funds used have been delayed in order to cover the costs of expanding the facility from it’s originally planned size. This was covered by the Orange County Register on Monday here.

  1 comment for “Sheriff’s Regional Training Facility Opens

  1. John Hanna
    September 12, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    Chris……………I’m sending this comment to you and I apologize for its length. I don’t have a public affairs bulletin piece to work off of..its straight out of me

    Thanks for posting the information on Santa Ana College’s Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy. It truly is a state of the art facility that will help train the men and women who serve our community not only in the Sheriff’s Department but police departments throughout Orange County.

    Unfortunately, Register reporter Tony Saavedra decided to do a hatchet job on the facility and on our District. It wasn’t the first time we’ve been on the receiving end of the Register’s jumanji journalism. They opposed our District’s efforts to secure this land when the Navy left. They opposed the passage of Measure E which funded the facility. They opposed Measure O which would have added money to finish off projects like the Science Building. If you are in public education you can’t win with the Register.

    But here are some facts that the Register didn’t let in the way of a good story:

    1) There was no bait and switch. The sheriff’s training facility was mentioned in the statement to the voters and in virtually every piece of mail the Yes on E campaign put out. People may forget that Sheriff Corona was on most pieces of mail urging support of Measure E. This is truly a canard.

    2) Funds were never shifted from the proposed new science building to the sheriff’s training academy. All buildings constructed and rehabilitated ran in excess of the estimates put forth in 2002. You could make the argument that funding of any one of them–including funds spent on facilities at Santiago Canyon College–shifted funds from the proposed new science building. But of course that wouldn’t make a story that was a twofer for the Register–a hit at a bond and Sheriff Carona.

    3) Funds are low from Measure E because we have been building and rehabilitating older buildings. They are also low because of the escalating cots of construction materials, the shortage of construction companies because in this period both the public and private sector were engaged in significant facility construction and rehab, and property acquisition costs escalated significantly. The state does not give us money to purchase land and we had to purchase land at Santa Ana College in order to create space for a new science facility. Despite these external cost pressures our District staff has done a fantastic job in obtaining significant cost savings through effective construction management.

    4) Those deputies and officers being trained at the Academy are Santa Ana College students as well. They generate funds from the state that go back into Santa Ana College for the benefit of all the students.

    5) The Orange County Sheriff’s Department had long maintained that they needed a newer and larger facility then the cramped and somewhat antiquated facility we were operating on leased land in Garden Grove. With the land secured in a struggle over the Tustin Air Base, we were able to retain the program that serves our community so well.

    6) Even if we had only spent the estimated funds on the Sheriffs Academy we would not have been able to build the proposed science building. Follow me–
    we ALREADY HAVE a science building–it’s in Russell Hall. Santa Ana College insisted–rightfully so–that we not tear this building down, leaving the school without a major classroom facility for a year.. The problem is there was NO ROOM for the new science building. To solve that problem with such a small campus(5th smallest campus in area in the state) we first had to purchase all the property on College Avenue. This was not easy, especially since we did not use eminent domain. State regulations on relocation assistance and reluctant sellers holding out for larger dollars delayed this process and caused prices to escalate. Then we needed the City of Santa Ana to dedicate and close College Avenue. This took what seemed forever. Before it was closed, the signal at Washington and Bristol needed to be upgraded. That took some time and we put $100,000 into that upgrade(and are contributing to the upgrade of two additional signalized intersections in Santa Ana as well).We are now looking at November of 2007 before College Avenue is closed. At that point we can start the process of moving our Maintenance and Operations and constructing a new M&O facility on new land. And then, AND ONLY THEN, would there have even been room to build a new science building.

    The faculty and students at Santa Ana College have been totally supportive of the decisions made during the bond construction process at SAC. And they should be given we are following their lead and recommendations. We are committed to building a new science facility with public and private funds. Do I wish that we had more Measure E money left? You betcha. But we make no apologies for the investments we’ve made at the Sheriffs Academy, the Santiago Canyon Library, the new 16 classroom building at SAC that we break ground on shortly, SAC’s new Digital Media Center, the land purchased for SAC and SCC and the various other buildings and facilities on both campuses. The taxpayers and voters have received good value for their investment.

    And by the way, and tonight I’ll try and get something off to Art on his blog, lay off the staff. I’m the Board President. If you want a piece of me I’ll be at Drinking Liberally about 9:30pm.

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