NTC Merrill campus dedicates rail car
Northcentral Technical College held a dedication Thursday for a rail car that is now being used to train emergency personnel at the Public Center Safety of Excellence in Merrill. The former Canadian National rail car was installed at the Merrill campus last winter, thanks in part to the efforts of U.S. Representative Sean Duffy. Classes utilizing the rail car started Friday.
Duffy was on hand at the dedication and spoke of the rail car procurement. He got involved after the idea came up in a conversation with NTC President Lori Weyers.
“We’ve had a great partnership,” Duffy said. “It was that partnership, from a random conversation on a different issue, that kind of got us working together to get this car here today. I’m grateful to Canadian National for their donation of the rail car.”
Duffy said he supports the mission of the Public Safety Center of Excellence.
“I think we have to be so proud to have this facility in our community,” Duffy said. “To think that we have folks from all over the state and other parts of the country that come to train in our community whether it’s fire, EMS or law enforcement, to make sure that they have the skill set to make sure their own commmunities are safer is a real proud attribute to who we are in Central Wisconsin.
“We never know what issues are going to come up in our community. Making sure that we have people who are well-trained and well-qualified to address the crises that arise in our community is imperative. The first line of defense is a training facility like this at NTC,” Duffy added.
Weyers thanked Duffy for helping make the connections that brought the rail car to the facility.
“If we did not have Congressman Duffy, we would not have gotten that car,” Weyers said. “He certainly has been an advocate for technical education, he’s been an advocate for our communities and keeping them safe.”
The Public Safety Center of Excellence is equipped to provide a wide array of training opportunities for police, fire and emergency medical personnel.
“This facility can actually generate more than 2,000 different scenarios for training,” Weyers said.
Maria Volpe, of Merrill, chair of the NTC District Board of Trustees, said, “As a resident of this fine city I am so proud of the partnership NTC and Merrill have forged together. Our Public Safety Center of Excellence provides the next generation of law enforcement, firefighters and EMS personnel state-of-the-art training opportunities. Our community reaps the benefits of some of those fine graduates we have working right here, protecting us and our families.”
By drawing in students, the NTC facility is benefitting Merrill’s economy, Volpe said.
“Our entire region realizes a strong economic impact by the mere presense of this college,” she said. “Our plan is to expand this already amazing facility.”
Paul Proulx, of Merrill, past president of the NTC Board of Trustees and a career law enforcement officer, said the training provided at the Public Safety Center of Excellence is better than ever offered in the past.
“We never had a facility like this,” he said. “We could only dream about things like this.”
The rail car is another step in that direction, Proulx noted.
“It’s a fantastic addition to the institution,” he said. “it’s something that will be well used not only by our area, but the entire central Wisconsin area will come down here and use this.”
The tanker rail car has been fitted with hazardous plaquards so that responders can learn to recognize potentially hazardous contents of rail cars, noted Doug Jennings, NTC Dean of Public Safety. The rail car can also be used in a number of scenarios.
“Our fire, EMS and law enforcement respond to vehicle accidents involving trains all the time,” Jennings said, “so they get a feel for how to extricate people from cars, how to make sure the train is safe and doesn’t cause further damage.”
Usage of the campus has been on the rise. The number of learners served at the Public Safety Center of Excellence was 2,388 in 2013-14 and 3,226 in 2014-15.
The college would like to add another box car to the facility, Weyers said. Other planned additions to the campus include placing a car in the pond for underwater vehicle rescue training, a tactical safety range, a bunkhouse for wilderness training,
“We will have a facility that can do it all,” Weyers said. “And we’ve done it in a very cost effective way.”