West Shore Community College opens new facility

FREE SOIL -- West Shore Community College hosted a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 5, for the new Riemer Regional Public Safety Training Center located at 6050 North US - 31.

The center will be home to the school's police and corrections academy and the criminal justice, emergency medical services and emergency tele-communicator programs.

A press release from the college stated the facility will "provide an enhanced learning environment and enable activities previously impossible due to a lack of space and resources."

In the past, classes were held on the upper floor of the Recreation Center on campus and trainings would take place in the woods and fields around the campus.

"Now that we're out here, we can be as loud as we want and out of the public's view," director of the criminal justice program Daniel Dellar said. "It gives us privacy and space."

WSCC President Scott Ward said in a letter to the college, "The center was designed with the community in mind. Through the center, the college will increase the number of public safety programs and expand professional development opportunities for hundreds of people employed or volunteering in public safety roles throughout West Michigan."

The 21,900 square foot building was purchased by West Shore two years ago from Dr. Andrew Riemer, who donated the purchase price of the building back to the college.

Riemer said when he purchased the building in 2013, he wanted to find a suitable purpose for it.

"I learned of the need for a regional safety center, so that was an easy decision for me," Riemer said. "One of the best uses for the building would be for the college to make use of it."

The facility includes classrooms, state-of-the-art laboratory space for the examination of fingerprints and other evidence, a computer lab, a 3D situation virtual simulator, locker rooms, a conference room and a 15-yard gun range with six firing stations.

"The center will enhance our programs in terms of creating new space for our existing programs, as well as allowing us to expand into some new program areas," Dr. Mark Kinney, vice president for academics and student services, said.

Future course offerings planned include expansion of the emergency medical services program and fire training.

The center also will provide a location where public safety organizations across the region can train and hold meetings.

"Our hope is that we can combine our resources for regional training instead of Mason, Oceana, Manistee and Lake counties all doing their own individual training," Dellar said. "They could all come here for service, refreshers or whatever they need. It's exceptional a college our size has something like this."

Riemer pledged an additional $500,000 toward student scholarships earmarked for use by the center to help support students in those programs.

"I am honored to be able to do this," Riemer said. "West Shore is a great institution and we want to see it thrive."