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2 A.V. PROJECTS ADVANCE ASSEMBLY SPENDING PLAN EXPECTED TO FUND VETERANS HOME, COLLEGE.

Byline: Jim Skeen Staff Writer

LANCASTER - A $1.6 million ``down payment'' for a $76 million public safety college and $12 million for a veterans home will be included in the Assembly's version of the state budget.

Funding for the Lancaster projects was included in the budget at the urging of Assemblyman George Runner, R-Lancaster, vice chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee.

The $1.6 million earmarked for the public safety college will go toward planning and site survey work. Runner hopes the money will represent a policy commitment by the state to continue to fund the project.

``We have now taken the first steps in creating what will be one of the largest, most advanced law enforcement training facilities in the state,'' Runner said. ``This is a huge coup for law enforcement in California.''

The college, still in the conceptual stage, would serve law enforcement officers, prison and jail officers, and firefighters. The college would be an academy for recruits and a place for those already in law enforcement to seek additional training and earn degrees in criminal justice.

The college would sit on 205 acres in the Fox Field Corridor, the land between the Antelope Valley Freeway and the Fox Field airport. The area is earmarked by Lancaster for commercial and industrial development.

Classrooms, dormitories and an emergency-vehicle driving center are planned.

The inclusion in the budget of the $12 million for the veterans home is part of a joint effort by Runner and state Sen. W.J. ``Pete'' Knight, R-Palmdale, to secure the state's share of the $36 million project.

California voters in March 2000 passed a bond measure that provided $12 million for building the Lancaster home, but Gov. Gray Davis in September vetoed legislation appropriating the money. Davis called the legislation premature, noting the two existing veterans homes in Southern California, Barstow and Chula Vista, have not achieved full capacity or obtained all their licenses and certifications.

Runner and Knight are trying again this legislation session to appropriate the funding, allowing California to apply for federal funding for the rest of the project.

Knight's office sent out 2,000 postcards to veterans, asking them to attend a California Veterans Board meeting Saturday at Lancaster City Hall to drum up support for bills appropriating the $12 million. Knight's Senate Bill 2 and Runner's Assembly 34, identical bills that call for the state to appropriate the $12 million, are in their respective appropriations committees.

Knight and Runner argue that the state can work out problems at Chula Vista and Barstow and still proceed with providing the state's share of the Lancaster funding. That would allow the state to get in line for federal funding for the rest of the project.

The California Veterans Department does not want to start the Lancaster project until Barstow and Chula Vista are fully operational and can maintain a high level of care, a spokesperson said.

The effort to establish veterans homes in Southern California has been hung up on problems with the Barstow home. The Barstow veterans home opened in 1996, but problems with patient care resulted in the home being decertified for participation in Medicare in July 2000.

The Barstow home has lost all federal payments for Medicaid and Medi- Cal.

Legislation is pending to provide $1.8 million to bring in a private contractor to run the skilled-nursing-care portion of the home and regain certification.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 18, 2001
Words:566
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