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Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Featured, from left: Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, on Thursday, July 9, 2015, following their presentations before the McAllen Chamber of Commerce’s 84th Legislative Wrap-up Luncheon, held at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel in McAllen.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Plans to build the South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in Pharr received final approval from the STC Board of Trustees on Tuesday, January 26, 2016, a move that will result in a multi-million dollar economic impact for the city while improving law enforcement throughout South Texas, said Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission. On a unanimous vote – with District 5 Trustee Dr. Alejo Salinas, Jr. of Edinburg excused on important business – the remaining six board members present for the public meeting approved an interlocal agreement with the City of Pharr and the Pharr San Juan Alamo Independent School District that will result in a major presence by STC on a 113.9 acre site located between U.S. Highway 281 and South Veterans Boulevard. “Obviously, this is a huge step for the people of Pharr and the PSJA school district because it brings one of the most prestigious higher education institutions in Texas into our community,” said Muñoz, whose House District 36 includes a large section of Pharr. “This is a landmark event, the latest success story in the Valley, and I congratulate the many people who worked long and hard to help make this happen.” The STC Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence was made possible in large part by Muñoz, who successfully authored House Bill 1887 last spring before the Texas Legislature. HB 1887 led to statutory authority for the STC to undertake the development of regional law enforcement training. “The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence will increase necessary access to training opportunities for officers in the Rio Grande Valley region and, in turn, improve public safety and border security,” Muñoz further explained. “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 would not.” The importance of establishing the STC complex in Pharr was emphasized during the State of the City Address on Wednesday, December 23, 2015, by Mayor Ambrosio “Amos” Hernández. “We are proud to announce that we have entered into a partnership to have a South Texas College facility in Pharr,” proclaimed the mayor, who was elected to his first term in May 2o15. “The facility will bring $9 million in economic impact and approximately $3 million in payroll.” Hernández shared Muñoz’ vision of the potential for the complex, with the mayor calling it “an STC Branch for PSJA ISD students.” Muñoz, a 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, with the interlocal agreements with the city and school district be 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 City of Pharr will contribute 59 acres and the PSJA school district will contribute 10 acres to begin the project. Within two years, the City of Pharr has proposed contributing another 32.24 acres, and within five years, the City of Pharr proposes contributing 12.55 additional acres.

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Rep. Muñoz: STC approves agreement with Pharr leaders that will result in creation of “landmark” South Texas Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

Plans to build the South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in Pharr received final approval from the STC Board of Trustees on Tuesday, January 26, 2016, a move that will result in a multi-million dollar economic impact for the city while improving law enforcement throughout South Texas, said Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission.

On a unanimous vote – with District 5 Trustee Dr. Alejo Salinas, Jr. of Edinburg excused on important business – the remaining six board members present for the public meeting approved an interlocal agreement with the City of Pharr and the Pharr San Juan Alamo Independent School District that will result in a major presence by STC on a 113.9 acre site located between U.S. Highway 281 and South Veterans Boulevard.

“Obviously, this is a huge step for the people of Pharr and the PSJA school district because it brings one of the most prestigious higher education institutions in Texas into our community,” said Muñoz, whose House District 36 includes a large section of Pharr. “This is a landmark event, the latest success story in the Valley, and I congratulate the many people who worked long and hard to help make this happen.”

The STC Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence was made possible in large part by Muñoz, who successfully authored House Bill 1887 last spring before the Texas Legislature. HB 1887 led to statutory authority for the STC to undertake the development of regional law enforcement training.

“The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence will increase necessary access to training opportunities for officers in the Rio Grande Valley region and, in turn, improve public safety and border security,” Muñoz further explained. “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 would not.”

The importance of establishing the STC complex in Pharr was emphasized during the State of the City Address on Wednesday, December 23, 2015, by Mayor Ambrosio “Amos” Hernández.

“We are proud to announce that we have entered into a partnership to have a South Texas College facility in Pharr,” proclaimed the mayor, who was elected to his first term in May 2o15. “The facility will bring $9 million in economic impact and approximately $3 million in payroll.”

Hernández shared Muñoz’ vision of the potential for the complex, with the mayor calling it “an STC Branch for PSJA ISD students.”

Muñoz, a 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, with the interlocal agreements with the city and school district be 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 City of Pharr will contribute 59 acres and the PSJA school district will contribute 10 acres to begin the project. Within two years, the City of Pharr has proposed contributing another 32.24 acres, and within five years, the City of Pharr proposes contributing 12.55 additional acres.

When the Muñoz/Hinojosa legislation was considered by the Legislature last spring, the House Research Organization, which is the research arm for the House of Representatives, provided key background on the legislative effort:

HB 1887 follows legislation successfully filed by Muñoz and Hinojosa in 2013.

At the time, House Concurrent Resolution 219 outlined the development of the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence, and documented the growing need for law enforcement personnel in the Rio Grande Valley region and the collaboration that would take place to develop the regional center’s training programs.

The Texas Workforce Commission projects an estimated 22 percent increase in police officer positions in the South Texas region in the next 10 years, but only four police academies in the counties of Hidalgo and Starr offer basic police officer courses certified by TCOLE. In fact, 28 agencies in South Texas lack police academies. HB 1887 now will provide law enforcement in the region with nearby training.

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. The Muñoz/Hinojosa law will now ensure officers do not have to leave the region for necessary training.

Although South Texas College already had the authority without the passage of HB 1887 to establish the regional center, there are many benefits to codifying the center into statute. The statute now serves as a model for future development of more regional centers of this kind that provide specialized training and college credit. Having the regional center in statute also will provide access to state and federal funding, including from the Department of Homeland Security.

HB 1887 requires South Texas College to administer the regional center in partnership with political subdivisions and participating school districts in the Rio Grande Valley. The headquarters of the regional center was required to be located in Pharr. The center may use property and facilities at other locations in Hidalgo and Starr counties.

The regional center is allowed to solicit and accept gifts and grants from any public or private source for the regional center, and the Legislature also could appropriate money for the regional center.

According to STC officials:

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.

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.

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.

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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