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updated: 12/18/2012 5:45 PM

ECC training facility planned for Burlington

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Elgin Community College has the go-ahead from Burlington trustees to build a satellite campus within the village limits -- an $18 million project that will have an early focus on training first responders.

The Public Safety and Sustainability Center would relocate programs for police and firefighters to the 118-acre site on Plank Road, according to Sharon Konny, vice president of business and finance at ECC. Truck driving, energy management and sustainability programs would be run there as well.

The police and firefighter training facility is expected to become a regional draw, a particularly exciting piece of the project for ECC President David Sam.

"More than 80 percent of first responders in the U.S. are trained at community colleges," he said. "This project will ensure that our local first responders learn and train at a first-rate facility."

But not everyone is happy with plans for the new campus. Burlington residents have been concerned with a proposed outdoor firing range that Konny said is not part of the first phase of the project.

Betty Reiser, the only Burlington trustee to vote against the proposal at a village board meeting Monday, said her main opposition was to the gunfire and noise pollution from the firing range. But she added that the village probably won't see any benefit from the college.

"If a developer came out here, we would at least get tax money off it," Reiser said. "This, we're going to get zero."

Village President Kathy Loos, though, said she expects an economic development boost from the college campus. She hopes a restaurant will open in Burlington because of the extra daytime population.

Loos said the vote was one of the most difficult decisions trustees have ever had to make following "quite a bit" of community participation. She said the shooting range was the point of primary opposition but expects ECC to be a good neighbor.

"I feel that it was a very good decision and it's a very exciting opportunity for Burlington," Loos said.

ECC trustees will have a chance to approve the intergovernmental agreement at a meeting Wednesday along with development and annexation agreements. Konny said construction should start in the spring with completion expected in the fall of 2014.

A "village" of shell buildings will be constructed to use for search and rescue training and in simulations for firefighters. The roads through the village can be used for truck driving students who are constrained on the main campus in Elgin, Konny said. The college is also considering geothermal wells and will get at least some of its power from a wind turbine.

The site also will have classrooms and specialized labs for energy management and sustainability programs with other academic buildings a possibility as the college grows.

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