West Shore Community College opened its newest facility on Saturday, October 5, the Riemer Regional Public Safety Training Center, made possible by the generosity of Ludington ophthalmologist Dr. Andrew Riemer.
Located on U.S. 31 midway between Scottville and Manistee, the center is the home to the college’s police and corrections academy, criminal justice, emergency medical services, and emergency tele communicator programs. The facility will also provide an enhanced learning environment, enable activities previously impossible at the college due to lack of space and resources, and strengthen community partnerships.
In a letter to the college community, WSCC President Scott Ward wrote, “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 the hundreds of individuals employed, or volunteering, in public safety roles throughout West-Central Michigan.”
Riemer purchased the 21,900-square-foot building in 2013 and waited to find a suitable purpose. “I wanted the building to have a good use and a good home,” he said. During a meeting with President Ward in 2017, that purpose became clear. “I learned of the need for a regional safety center, so that was an easy decision for me,” he explained. “When that came up, it was a clear win-win for everybody. One of the best uses for the building would be for the college. I give Scott the credit for understanding a good use.”
West Shore bought the building from Riemer two years ago, and he immediately donated 100% of the purchase price back to the college’s foundation. Renovations began in the summer of 2018, and the criminal justice, corrections, emergency medical service, and emergency telecommunication programs are now under way at the facility.
“Our hope is that eventually we can combine our resources for regional training,” said Daniel Dellar, director of the Criminal Justice program. “Instead of Mason, Oceana, Manistee and Lake County public safety personnel all doing their own individual training, they could all come here for service, refreshers, or whatever they need. It’s exceptional that a college our size has something like this.”
Surrounded by farmland, the center provides an ideal location for law enforcement and corrections training. “There are no other commercial buildings within nearly a mile,” said Dellar. In the past, classes were held on the upper floor of the Recreation Center and trainings in the campus woods and fields. “There were times when we were a problem for the other programs in our building,” he said. “Now that we’re out here, we can be as loud as we want and out of the public view. If we’re practicing felony stops, nobody calls and says, ‘Hey, there are police officers out there with their guns drawn.’ It gives us privacy and space.”
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 building offers room for expansion, and additional course offerings are planned, including the expansion of the emergency medical services program that was inactivated in 2012, and eventually, fire training. “The center will enhance our programs in terms of creating new space for our existing programs like public safety, criminal justice and corrections,” said Dr. Mark Kinney, West Shore’s vice president for academics and student services. “It will allow us to expand into some new program areas as well. EMT and paramedic courses in the future is our plan.”
The center will provide a location where public safety organizations across the region can train and hold regional meetings. “We can serve a wide area that goes well beyond the borders of our official service region,” said Kinney.
The human factor
Riemer also pledged $500,000 toward student scholarships, to be allocated in annual increments of $50,000. This year’s funds are earmarked for use by the Riemer Regional Public Safety Training Center to help support students in its programs.
“I’m honored to be able to do this,” Riemer said. “West Shore is a great institution and you want to see it thrive and you want to see local kids benefit. My six adult children who have gone through college all attended West Shore in some capacity. It’s a stepping-stone for all.”