By Dan McDonald
For Hometown News
BREVARD — Space Coast residents may not know it, but a focus meeting June 11 on the Melbourne Campus of Brevard Community College set in motion a long-envisioned program that will have a significant impact on the future well-being of Brevard County residents.
“I can’t tell you how exciting it is to begin the process of developing this new facility,” said Marian Shelpman, dean of the Institute of Public Safety at BCC. “For the first time, we’re going to have all the people who are taught how to look after our community in one place at the same time. It will be a major improvement in providing the education to those who serve and protect.”
The meeting discussed program-related details of a new Institute of Public Safety, housed in a 40,000-square-foot building to be constructed in Viera on land purchased by BCC and recommended by the Florida Department of Education.
The institute is set to replace an aged building constructed in 1972 on what had been an open-air gymnasium on the Melbourne campus.
The new facility, scheduled to open in 2014, will house a police academy and programs in fire science, emergency medical technicians, criminal justice, criminal science, corrections and 911 operators’ programs, which are currently located across BCC campuses in Titusville, Cocoa, Melbourne and Palm Bay, as well as off campus at Port Canaveral.
“It’s really time we bring all this training and education together in one spot,” said Ms. Shelpman, who came to BCC in 1994, as a coordinator and adjunct professor in correctional probation officer training.
“There is so much good that comes from cross-training and networking and meeting others in the same field of public safety,” she said. “The more interaction between those who are out on the street working to keep us safe, the better.”
Ms. Shelpman added that she and her team are eager to see the positive results that the new institute may bring to its students and the community as a whole.
“We don’t know how many graduates of these various programs there are, but over 40 years, we’ve graduated thousands and thousands of first responders, and Brevard County is literally full of our graduates who now hold leadership positions in public safety,” she said. “Having future students all under one roof will help develop coordination, as these new graduates move out and into the community. It’s a big win for Brevard.”
Money for the $14 million construction is already on hand, thanks to a $26.7 million special appropriation from the Florida Legislature, slipped into the state’s $70 billion budget and signed by Gov. Rick Scott April 17.
The special appropriation is in addition to the $36 million allotted to BCC annually for general operating expenses, and allows officials to target several other areas of need. This is in addition to the new institute, which has been on hold for several years, as the state tightened the fiscal belt and dealt budget cuts to BCC.
John Glisch, associate vice president for communications at Brevard Community College, said the special allocation would also be used to advance programs and help students succeed and make needed building renovations.
“We have been putting off making needed repairs and renovations to our existing buildings for several years,” Mr. Glisch said. “For example, in 2006, BCC received 60 percent of its operating budget from the state appropriation. Now, with our current level of funding, we’re at 50 to 51 percent of our operating budget.”
In addition to the $14 million allocation to purchase land, install infrastructure and build a new Institute of Public Safety, the college also received an additional $7 million for college program enhancements to help ensure student success, including a variety of initiatives.
These initiatives include:
• The newly opened Career Planning and Development Center on the Cocoa Campus, which takes a holistic approach to matching students with the right careers through advisement, jobs fairs and recruitment.
• Opening Teaching and Learning Centers on all four campuses, which are designed to improve academic performance by using full-time faculty tutors and staff to focus on the basic skills students need, but sometimes lack when entering the college.
• Enhancing student advisement to ensure students are fully integrated into the college during their first few weeks and months in college.
Additionally, the college also received another $5.7 million for building improvements and renovations.
BCC serves approximately 35,000 students across four campuses, while the Institute of Public Safety will continue to turn out hundreds of health and safety practitioners annually, Mr. Glisch said.