Salem votes to keep academy in Monmouth

Mayor Paul Evans thinks Monmouth is still in the game.

MONMOUTH -- Mayor Paul Evans thinks Monmouth is still in the game.

It stands a chance of keeping the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. Not a great chance, Evans said.

Just a chance.

Right now, Evans and other city officials are waiting for what DPSST Director Diane Middle and other police academy decide -- whether they want to stay in Monmouth or move elsewhere.

"I'm guardedly optimistic," Evans said.

Evans was more optimistic until a public forum March 13. Up until then, he said the academy was Monmouth's to lose.

The meeting was held to show public support. But when it became dominated by concerns about the noise a planning driving course and firing range would create, Evans lost a little faith. Residents also raised concerns about safety issues.

His job now, Evans said, is to address those concerns. He is working with city staff members to get information to residents.

Most people are not opposed to the academy, Evans said. They just want to make sure their concerns are listened to and addressed.

"If we can get a handle on people's concerns, I think we can still keep the academy," Evans said. "Otherwise, that's the ball game."

The final decision is the hands of the House Ways and Means Committee in Salem.

Middle has been looking to move the academy for several years.

She said the academy needs the driving course, firing range and other expansions. The current site, next to Western Oregon University, is just not big enough.

Middle said the academy needs at least 165 acres.

The public safety academy employs 135 jobs, making it Monmouth's second-largest employer next to the university itself.

It trains not only police officers, but also firefighters, parole and probation officers and private security guards.

Monmouth officials are proposing two sites.

The first site is 184 acres north of Ash Creek on the edge of both Monmouth and Independence. It would be near the new intermediate school off Hoffman Road.

An alternative site would be closer to Western Oregon University. Western officials recently bought 25 acres on the northwest corner of campus in the hopes the academy would stay in Monmouth.

It would not be big enough for a driving course and firing range. Those would still have to located at the other site -- a mile and a half away.

Salem Mayor Mike Swaim has said he would like to see the academy stay in Monmouth. Those sentiments were made official by the Salem City Council April 2.

Councilors voted to remove Salem from consideration unless Monmouth is absolutely no longer an option.


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