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Photograph By PETER SALINAS

Featured: Rose Benavidez, Member, Board of Trustees, South Texas College, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, in the underground annex of the Texas Capitol, during Community College Day on Thursday, February 3, 2015.

Photograph By PETER SALINAS

Pharr could soon see construction begin on the South Texas Regional Center for Public Safety, to be located on a 113.9 site located between U.S. Highway 281 and South Veterans Boulevard, as a result of House Bill 1887 by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission. On Tuesday, January 26, 2016 (today), the STC Board of Regents are scheduled to review and approve an interlocal agreement with the City of Pharr and the Pharr San Juan Alamo Independent School District that will see the landmark complex take shape, and with it, improve the quality of public safety in deep South Texas. The pending action is part of the STC Board of Trustees’ regular monthly meeting, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Ann Richards Administration Building Board Room at the Pecan Campus in McAllen. Muñoz predicted the planned STC facility and site also will pave the way in the future for a branch campus – and possibly more – in Pharr, which is part of his House District 36 legislative district. “South Texas College is one of the best college systems in Texas, it is only one of a handful of community colleges in the state which offer university-level bachelor degrees, it is poised for greater growth, and it has helped transform the South Texas economy through its outstanding graduates who are as skilled and talented as they are numerous and in demand,” Muñoz said. “This is just the beginning for STC in Pharr.” The three-term state legislator, who serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee which shaped the current $200+ billion state budget, praised his fellow Valley lawmakers for helping pass the state law authorizing and helping fund the South Texas Regional Center for Public Safety. “Sen. Juan Hinojosa was the Senate author of my House Bill 1887, while Rep. Terry Canales, Rep. Bobby Guerra, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, and Rep. Ryan Guillen were joint authors in the House, and they all deserve credit for this huge accomplishment,” said Muñoz. “There is no substitute for experience when it comes to getting what we deserve from the Texas Legislature.” According to STC, once the interlocal agreements with the city and school district are approved, it will take between 18 months and 24 months to build the 21,800 square-foot facility which will be the initial heart of The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence. The project will include classroom facilities, vehicle driving range, outdoor shooting range, firearms simulator, mobile firearms simulator/live firing range, driving simulator, obstacle course, fitness rooms, and administrative offices. The estimated initial construction cost is $6.782 million, which includes $4.2 million from South Texas College’s Series 2013 Bond Issuance, $1.5 million provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety, and $1 million provided by the PSJA School District. “The Regional Center for Public Excellence in Pharr shall increase necessary access to training opportunities for officers in the Rio Grande Valley region and, in turn, improve public safety and border security,” said Muñoz. “The training provided at the regional center also would provide officers with college credit toward either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, while the four police academies in the area do not.”

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South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety in Pharr, created by Rep. Muñoz, set for action this evening by STC Board of Trustees

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

Pharr could soon see construction begin on the South Texas Regional Center for Public Safety, to be located on a 113.9 site located between U.S. Highway 281 and South Veterans Boulevard, as a result of House Bill 1887 by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission.

On Tuesday, January 26, 2016 (today), the STC Board of Regents are scheduled to review and approve an interlocal agreement with the City of Pharr and the Pharr San Juan Alamo Independent School District that will see the landmark complex take shape, and with it, improve the quality of public safety in deep South Texas.

The pending action is part of the STC Board of Trustees’ regular monthly meeting, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Ann Richards Administration Building Board Room at the Pecan Campus in McAllen.

Muñoz predicted the planned STC facility and site also will pave the way in the future for a branch campus – and possibly more – in Pharr, which is part of his House District 36 legislative district.

“South Texas College is one of the best college systems in Texas, it is only one of a handful of community colleges in the state which offer university-level bachelor degrees, it is poised for greater growth, and it has helped transform the South Texas economy through its outstanding graduates who are as skilled and talented as they are numerous and in demand,” Muñoz said. “This is just the beginning for STC in Pharr.”

The three-term state legislator, who serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee which shaped the current $200+ billion state budget, praised his fellow Valley lawmakers for helping pass the state law authorizing and helping fund the South Texas Regional Center for Public Safety.

“Sen. Juan Hinojosa was the Senate author of my House Bill 1887, while Rep. Terry Canales, Rep. Bobby Guerra, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, and Rep. Ryan Guillen were joint authors in the House, and they all deserve credit for this huge accomplishment,” said Muñoz. “There is no substitute for experience when it comes to getting what we deserve from the Texas Legislature.”

According to STC, once the interlocal agreements with the city and school district are approved, it will take between 18 months and 24 months to build the 21,800 square-foot facility which will be the initial heart of The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence.

The project will include classroom facilities, vehicle driving range, outdoor shooting range, firearms simulator, mobile firearms simulator/live firing range, driving simulator, obstacle course, fitness rooms, and administrative offices.

The estimated initial construction cost is $6.782 million, which includes $4.2 million from South Texas College’s Series 2013 Bond Issuance, $1.5 million provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety, and $1 million provided by the PSJA School District.

“The Regional Center for Public Excellence in Pharr shall increase necessary access to training opportunities for officers in the Rio Grande Valley region and, in turn, improve public safety and border security,” said Muñoz. “The training provided at the regional center also would provide officers with college credit toward either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, while the four police academies in the area do not.”

PURPOSE

The proposed agreements will allow for the construction of the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence with commitments from the College, the City, and the District.

JUSTIFICATION

In 2011, The Texas Workforce Commission projected an estimated 22 percent increase in police officer employment in the South Texas region over the next 10 years. Currently, some 1,751 law enforcement officers are employed in Hidalgo and Starr Counties. However, currently only four police academies in the counties of Hidalgo and Starr offer basic police officer courses certified by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (“TCOLE”).

Overall, local law enforcement officers in the Rio Grande Valley usually have to travel to College Station or San Antonio for specialized training or continuing education courses at the expense of local police departments and other law enforcement agencies in South Texas. Twenty-eight South Texas law enforcement entities lack police academies. Hence, there is a lack of sufficient training opportunities in South Texas to which law enforcement officers have reasonable access.

HB 1887 of the 84th Legislative Session led to statutory authority for the College to undertake the development of regional law enforcement training.

South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence will provide the additional benefit to local law enforcement agencies of direct coordination and responsiveness to community needs, reducing the need for pre-hire training processes by local agencies.

PROJECT SCOPE

The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence will consist of an estimated 21,800 square-foot facility. The Project will include classroom facilities, vehicle driving range, outdoor shooting range, firearms simulator, mobile firearms simulator/live firing range, driving simulator, obstacle course, fitness rooms, and administrative offices.

The estimated initial construction cost is $6.782 million, which includes $4.2 million from South Texas College’s Series 2013 Bond Issuance, $1.5 million provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety, and $1 million provided by the PSJA School District.

The PSJA School District will contribute $1,370,532, which includes its $1 million monetary contribution and 10 acres of real property.

The City of Pharr will contribute approximately fifty-nine (59) acres of real property at an estimated value of $2.5 million.

In its agenda packet, which is posted online, South Texas College officials provide the following background on the plans for the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence:

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION

South Texas College will be solely responsible for the design and construction of the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence, but will invite designated officials of the City of Pharr and the PSJA School District to review and comment on the schematic design during that phase of the project.

LAND

South Texas College will take legal title to and possession of approximately fifty-nine (59) acres of property from the City and an additional ten (10) acres from the District for initial construction.

CURRICULUM AND PROGRAMS

South Texas College will develop and provide instructional programs and course curriculum to satisfy the requirements established by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement for the Basic Peace Officer Certification and continuing education programs and will operate as a TCOLE approved training provider.

South Texas College will permit annual enrollment of up to 110 full-time equivalent (FTE) eligible District students in dual enrollment programs leading to an Associate of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice and/or Early College classes in related fields of study.

South Texas College intends to partner with the City’s Police Academy, though South Texas College reserves the right to become an independent TCOLE authorized academy at a future date.

CONTINUED OPERATION

South Texas College agrees to design, construct, maintain and operate the facility continuously for a minimum period of twenty years, commencing from the date of substantial completion of the project.

Funds and resources are available through the college’s 2013 Bond Series issuance, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and commitments from the City of Pharr and the Pharr San Juan Alamo ISD.

Upon approval of the proposed agreements by the South Texas College Board of Trustees, the college will be able to accept transfer of the initial properties and financial contributions and will be able to begin the design and construction process.

The STC Facilities Committee recommended STC Board approval of the proposed Interlocal Agreement with Pharr San Juan Alamo ISD and the City of Pharr and the Lease Agreement with Pharr San Juan Alamo ISD, and further authorization for the STC president to make further changes to the agreements, insofar as those changes are not material.

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Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, has served in the Texas Legislature since 2011 and represents all or parts of the cities of Hidalgo, Granjeño, McAllen, Mission, Palmview and Pharr. His Capitol office is located at E1.508 in the Capitol extension, and may be reached at (512) 463-0704. His District Office is located at 121 E. Tom Landry, Mission, and may be reached at (956) 584-8999.

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