N.C. Emergency Training Center set to receive $28 million mistakenly allocated to airport

The N.C. Emergency Training Center at the Stanly County Airport is slated to receive $28 million from the state budget once it gets approved for capital improvements and to help implement various new programs, according to Chief State Fire Marshal Brian Taylor.

The main priorities the training center will address with the funding include creating an Aircraft Rescue Firefighting (ARFF) simulation, which would help attract fire crews from across the state; Specialized Advance Rescue Training for confined space, high angle and and water rescue; and a new burn building.

Taylor mentioned the military would utilize about 80 percent of the training programs while civilian firefighters would use the other 20 percent. The new programs would help firefighters and other first responders be better prepared to respond to natural and manmade disasters.

“This is big for Stanly County because bringing this state-of-the-art facility, it’s going to bring emergency officials from around the state and for military emergency officials, it’s going to bring them from around the country,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the hope is the new trainings would mimic the Samarcand Training facility in Moore County, which provides basic, in-service and advanced training for law enforcement agencies.

In addition to the new programs, funding would also go to improving the interior of a training classroom facility as well as the center’s dining room and dorms.

Taylor said the money would go to the county, since it owns all of the property upon which the new programs will be built.

The North Carolina House has earmarked the $28 million to go towards capital improvements for the Stanly County Airport, as opposed to the training center. In actuality, the airport is not expected to receive much state funding. Airport Director Ken Swaringen said the perception it will be receiving millions to help with infrastructure repairs could imperil any future federal funding.

Since the new programs will be built in close proximity to the airport, Swaringen surmises that during the budget appropriation, the funding somehow got assigned to the airport.

“We at the airport are very concerned on how this appears as none of those funds will be directly used for the airport,” Swaringen said. “If it remains as written it could create issues for the airport as we attempt to seek funding for airport use.”

State Rep. Wayne Sasser, who represents Stanly County, said he talked with Taylor last week and plans to work with the writers of the House budget to sort the matter out. He estimates the Stanly County Airport could still receive a few million from the budget.

“We’re going to sit down this week with bill writers to see if we can work out the language that…doesn’t jeopardize the money but that doesn’t make the airport look like they’ve got a bunch of money that they didn’t,” he said.

“The main thing that we don’t need to lose focus on is that it’s (the funding) coming to Stanly County,” Sasser added. “We’re all going to benefit.”

Sasser is cautiously optimistic that the House and Senate will be able to present Gov. Roy Cooper with an approved budget sometime before the end of September.

The training center was created as a partnership between the N.C. Air National Guard and the Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM) in December 2017. The center provides firefighters and rescue workers from around the country advanced training in areas such as trench rescues, aircraft rescue and firefighting, a heavy lifting course and rope rescues, among others.

The ANG also has a partnership with Stanly Community College to offer fire and rescue certification at the training center to civilians as well as firefighters and rescue workers. These certifications are under the OSFM.

ANG offers an Urban Search and Rescue training which includes the courses of confined space, trench rescue, structural collapse and ropes. These are all rescue 1 and rescue 2 certifications and it’s the only site in the country for ANG military and civilian firefighters and rescue workers to receive certification. The firefighters live and eat for free on the training base while they are taking their courses.

There are several other programs that the emergency training center will plan on creating, including Military Firefighter I & II Certification, a NC High School Firefighting and Rescue Challenge, Firefighter Career Workforce Development and one where students enrolled in NC State’s Textile College test firefighter and military protective clothing.