Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Monterey County civil grand jury report reviews proposed MPC police training facilities
Seaside >> In its first report for the 2017-18 term, the Monterey County civil grand jury recommended the Monterey Peninsula College board of trustees should make a decision on proceeding on law enforcement training facilities at Fort Ord.
The report explains that while MPC has an existing site for its police officer training academy at Fort Ord, moving forward with plans for an emergency vehicle operations course and a firing range along with improvements to the military operations urban terrain facility would be beneficial for local police and fire agencies.
The civil grand jury is an investigatory body made up of community members that is assembled each fiscal year. At the end of each term, a final report is issued summarizing its investigative findings and providing recommendations for study and action.
MPC entered an agreement in 2003 that established sites for the vehicle course and a firing range. Transfer of the sites is awaiting ordnance removal, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2018. The agreement included the military operations urban terrain facility built by the Army on Fort Ord in 1987, nicknamed “Impossible City.” In all, the three sites are in excess of 536 acres and Fort Ord Reuse Authority put their value at $48 million.
If the MPC board chooses to move forward with one or more of the projects, the civil grand jury recommends the college hire a program manager to oversee the transfer of the land and acquire funding for construction, maintenance and operation of the facilities.
According to the report, the urban terrain facility is scheduled to be transitioning to MPC ownership in late 2018 as part of the Fort Ord Reuse Authority’s Environmental Services Cooperative Agreement Remediation Program. The 2003 agreement stipulated MPC devise a schedule with no use fees for up to 45 days for the U.S. military, 30 days for the FBI, 12 days for the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office and five days for the Bureau of Land Management. The Sheriff’s Office has been authorized to use the facility in the interim.
Exercises at the facility are currently limited to those not posing a fire danger — meaning safe, simulated weapons like paintball guns or laser tag are used — because there is no access to water or electricity at the facility. The roofs on several of the building are in disrepair. The area around the facility must be fenced to prevent users from wandering into nearby areas containing unexploded ordnance.
The report does not contain estimates to build the vehicle course and firing range or to repair and properly maintain the urban terrain facility. It explains about $9.5 million remain in funds from 2002’s Measure I. The school could request matching state funds for the projects, though a new bond measure may be needed to complete the planned facilities.
According to the report, police and fire recruits could utilize the emergency vehicle operations course as well as current first responders. The civil grand jury surveyed one command-level departmental representative from 15 law enforcement agencies in Monterey County to get feedback on the proposed facilities. When asked what changes they would like MPC to implement to its police academy, the most common response was more remedial training. They said having nearby facilities would be helpful in alleviating problems. The surveys showed a majority of the county law enforcement officials who responded thought the facilities would be helpful for training personnel and could reduce costs and travel time.
The land being transferred to MPC for the emergency vehicle operations course would take up 485 acres in Parker Flats, with 210 acres designated as habitat acreage meaning it cannot be developed. The report states designating some acreage as greenbelts, potential solar farming areas or a combination of the two could have a positive impact on the environment and help generate funds for maintenance. A 2013 feasibility study showed Fort Ord has great potential for solar farming.
The civil grand jury recommended MPC develop a current financial plan detailing the feasibility of the projects.
“If the MPC Board of Trustees does not proceed on one or more of these projects, MPC should give up their claim, so the land can be transferred for other allowed and desirable purposes,” the report concluded.
Agencies named in the report are required by statute to respond to the findings and recommendations within 60 to 90 days of the report. The civil grand jury requested a response to the report from the MPC board of trustees.
May 14, 2018
Monterey County Herald
By Tom Wright