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Emergency services training center eyed in Berkeley County

November 03, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A regional emergency services training facility envisioned for the James Rumsey Technical Institute's campus near Hedgesville, W.Va., is projected to cost about $2.35 million, a leading supporter of the project told Berkeley County commissioners Thursday.

"Funding is going to be a big deal for this," said David K. Weller, assistant coordinator of public service training for RESA VIII.

Weller was optimistic that obtaining the necessary funding was "achievable" and noted that James Rumsey officials already decided to provide an eight-acre site, and maybe more, on the school's campus off W.Va. 9.

The facility would jibe with James Rumsey's new course offerings in emergency service-related subjects and Weller believes it would help retain more personnel who are leaving the area.

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Students enrolled in the program now can earn 17 college credits from James Rumsey, Weller said.

Steve Allen, Berkeley County's director of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, said he was "very excited" about having a training facility established locally and noted it would help lower ratings used to set fire insurance premiums.

A full-time member of the Martinsburg Fire Department, Weller said the facility could allow the city's personnel to train with their ladder truck, which now is infrequently used and is "constantly out of service" as a result.

Weller noted he has received several contributions of equipment from other jurisdictions, including the City of Martinsburg, for training courses at James Rumsey.

He's also received support and contributions for a future training facility, which would be dedicated for law enforcement and other emergency responders, both volunteer and paid staff.

During a slide presentation, Weller noted the scarcity of available training in West Virginia, including an ongoing relocation of West Virginia University's facility to Jackson's Mill, W.Va.

The days of finding an old house to burn for training purposes are all but over because of increasing regulations, Weller said.

"There's nowhere to train," Weller said.

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