WEATHERFORD — The future of the Weatherford College Fire Academy is up in the air after the property it was housed at — where the city of Weatherford is constructing it's new public safety building — will no longer be available.
"The fire academy has to move because the city is reutilizing the area where the old power plant was, which was a combined training field," Weatherford College Public Safety Professions Director Stephen Malley said. "It's never really had the opportunity to put down roots."
In it's 22-year history, the academy has never had a permanent home, college officials said, starting out in Mineral Wells, then moving to Weatherford Station No. 3, then Hudson Oaks before relocating to the current Weatherford property.
"The city has been a gracious host for some time, but it’s time for our academy to move to another home in order for the city’s construction project to continue," Weatherford College spokesperson Brent Baker said. "The college has met with other potential partners that could share in the cost of relocating, but so far, the right arrangement has not presented itself."
The cost of relocating the program without a partner to share the expense is an estimated $430,000, Baker said, in addition to annual costs including equipment needs, and staying in compliance with state and national regulations.
"Those and other expenses outpace the revenues for this program each year," he said. "The college is looking at ways to offset those expenses while raising revenues."
Malley said the academy had a combination of 20 students between online and face-to-face classes during its last semester, and though it has "hopped around," has graduated many students through a "good, quality program" over the years.
"We have everything we need, we just need a place to put everything," he said, adding that a new location would need a classroom, training tower, storage and a place to keep the fire truck and store equipment.
Malley said many supporters of the academy are planning to attend Thursday afternoon's board meeting to encourage the college to maintain the program.
Baker said no decision has been made as of yet regarding the academy, and that the administration is weighing all options.
"We understand the importance of public safety programs to our community and we take pride in training the nurses, EMTs, police officers and firefighters that keep us healthy and safe," he said. "Decisions like these are made while balancing our institution's mission with the best interests of the taxpayers."
In January, the college partnered up with Millsap ISD and Parker County ESD 7 for a pilot high school fire academy, where students attended a 14-week course with online classes twice a week as well as hands-on training once a week. If successful, there were plans to expand the program to other schools in the county.
Thursday's meeting begins at 2 p.m. in the Allene Strain Community Room of the Doss Student Center.