PSTA to get $546,000 in federal funds

NEWTON. The funds aim to bolster academic and vocational emergency management programming at Sussex County Community College’s Public Safety Training Academy.

| 14 May 2024 | 10:50

Sussex County Community College’s (SCCC) Public Safety Training Academy (PSTA) will undergo significant enhancements in equipment, technology and training resources in the next year.

SCCC will receive $546,000 for the PSTA through a congressionally directed spending request, said Stan Kula, executive director of the SCCC Foundation.

The funding aims to bolster the academy’s academic and vocational emergency management programming.

The congressional directed spending was a collaboration between Kula, PSTA director John Dixon, and Cory Homer, SCCC vice president of institutional effectiveness.

In 2023, the Department of Education allocated $96,000 to the college to establish the SCCC Cybersecurity Program, Dixon said.

”The SCCC Public Safety Training Academy is immensely grateful for the awarding of this funding,” he said. “This will significantly enhance and support vital improvements to our infrastructure. With these funds, we can further our commitment to academic and vocational excellence for all emergency responders in our county and the surrounding region.”

Kula said, ”The enhancement of the PSTA is of value and critical importance for taxpayers as the further development will allow for more local educational programming for fire, police and EMS within the county.

“The project will benefit all residents of Sussex County either directly or indirectly as the volunteer fire departments and police stations in the county will use the PSTA for training purposes.”

He added, ”This project will create a better pathway for students pursuing education in fire, police and EMS, which will eventually create job opportunities for these students. Most fire and police departments need to seek training outside of Sussex County, impacting the number of potential volunteers for fire departments in the county.”

The new equipment will include:

• Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) packs.

• SCBA cylinders.

• SCBA face pieces.

• Thermal imaging cameras and a used Quint fire apparatus.

• Turnout gear and personal protective equipment.

• Live fire roof prop.

• Class A burn building/container system.

The technology funding category will include portable radios and interactive smart boards.

”The portable radios are crucial to teach and demonstrate incident communications while on the scene, while the interactive smart boards will replace antiquated technology in the classrooms to allow for a more robust experience for students,” Kula said.

At the PSTA, faculty and staff will be offered instructor training for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certifications.

”The instructors will be able to train students in FEMA and OSHA regulations and incorporate them in more comprehensive training opportunities to have more individuals with these nationally recognized credentials,” Kula said.

SCCC President Jon Connolly said, ”The modernization of the curriculum and the advancement of training is now going to be even more possible thanks to the infusion of funding.

“The equipment allows for training that our volunteers need and that we have been unable to provide completely. Further investments are needed, but we hope the college will see more federal dollars due to the strong return on investment delivered by our PSTA coordinator, John Dixon. His great instructional team has transformed the PSTA in a short time.”

PSTA history

The Sussex County government sold the PSTA and its land to SCCC in May 2004. The SCCC Fire Academy and PSTA was a separate entity before the sale occurred for instructional purposes, administration and budget.

After the college took possession in January 2005, the administration and instruction at the PSTA fell to the college, but the budgeting and finance remained linked to the county.

“The financial model was built in this way to ensure that the PSTA expenditures were dedicated to fire training and that no money from one entity could be appropriated or borrowed by the other,” Connolly said. “In this way, it protected both entities.”

The facility and its offering grew slowly.

”The PSTA has remained vigilant in its service to the firefighting volunteers of Sussex County, providing training in classes for Fire 1 and Fire 2,” Connolly said. “Although modernization of teaching and programming was slow in years past, it is now at a new moment in its history and has begun to increase its utilization and serviceability to the county during the last 12 months.

”A three-year strategic plan was developed, and about 70 percent of that plan has been achieved in just the last year. There has been a new emphasis on an entrepreneurial and opportunistic approach to pay more attention to the consumers of firefighting training and what they want and need; to upgrade equipment in a real and sustainable fashion; to listen and take action on the change needed to compete with other counties’ training centers; to ensure the best training with the best instructors in the region.”

For information about the PSTA, go online to