Work In Progress Construction updates.
» New Student Center Annex is under way
Groundbreaking took place on Friday, Sept. 20, for Coastal Carolina University's Lib Jackson Student Center Annex I, a 39,000-square-foot addition to the existing building. The project is budgeted at $12 million.
Two annexes are planned for the Student Center. Annex I will include a movie theater/auditorium, conference rooms, retail services and lounge space, as well as areas for student organizations to assemble. A courtyard area between the existing center and Annex I will include an area for entertainment venues. The front facade of the current Student Center will be remodeled to include a rotunda lobby and lounge.
University departments that will move into the new annex include Student Activities, Multicultural Student Services, International Student Services and Career Services.
The proposed Annex II will contain a large event space and conference areas as well as additional lounge space for students.
» Public safety never sleeps
By Derrick Bracey
When Capt. Thomas Mezzapelle joined Coastal Carolina University’s police force, he and his fellow officers still carried revolvers. Now they carry semi-automatics. They’ve gotten more patrol cars and added bikes, golf carts and low-speed vehicles. The department has installed more than 150 emergency call boxes and instituted CCU text and email alerts. They’ve gone from paper to electronic file management and progressively added more and better video surveillance. And soon, they’ll be moving into a brand new space.
“The new building is going to be another big step in helping us police CCU,” says Mezzapelle, the department’s training and compliance officer. The 5,600-square-foot Public Safety Building will house offices, locker rooms, an interview room, a training room and a break area. There is a secure evidence room, including a refrigerated area where biological evidence can be stored. There’s also a communications center with monitors for the more than 500 security cameras located throughout campus.
“It’s grown so much. When I started, we had a total of 12 officers. That’s grown to 39 full-time patrol officers,” says Mezzapelle, who has had a 23-year association with CCU. He was a student back in 1990, became a security officer in 1996 and has been rising in the ranks ever since.
The department’s growth over the years has developed into specialized units: dispatch, patrol officers, investigations, security officers, student security, operational support, community relations and administration. It also polices both CCU and Horry-Georgetown Technical College’s campuses around the clock. “We’ve restructured the work shifts to incorporate teams of police and security officers who all report to the same supervisor on every shift,” says Mezzapelle.
Chief of Police David Roper says, “CCU’s administration has been great, and our board of trustees supports us in all we do to keep this campus safe.”
“This is a good, solid police force,” says Roper, who was an agent with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) for more than 26 years before coming to CCU four years ago. “Our officers know how to work the streets and how to treat people. Before I started, I didn’t fully realize how active a college campus could be. Between the sports, extracurricular activities, performances and large meetings, not to mention the off-campus groups that come on campus, there is a lot going on.”
The department is also in the contract stages of installing a voice alert system designed to work in conjunction with the loudspeakers of buildings’ alarm panels. These precautions work hand-in-hand with the recent active shooter training that was initiated as a mandatory seminar to educate faculty and staff in case of a shooting incident.
“All of our officers have gone through live-fire training, says Roper. "I want my guys to be prepared and able to eliminate a threat,” “We hope and pray it never happens here, but it’s in the paper every day.”
Mezzapelle says, “And if something horrible like that happens, it’s not going to be police officers on the frontline. That’s why it’s important to train all the faculty and staff, so everyone knows what to do and how to do it until emergency responders arrive.”
Ninety percent of the faculty and staff have received training so far, and the other 10 percent who were unavailable for the initial seminars are being trained individually. The active shooter training has also become part of orientation for new employees.
Keeping with the proactive approach, all the locks in the classrooms and common areas have been upgraded. The new locks allow students, faculty and staff to lock themselves inside a room without a key, in case of an emergency.
But Mezzapelle says the biggest challenge for public safety is underage drinking. “This has been a problem since Egyptians threw some grain in water and realized they felt funny after drinking it,” he says. “We try to handle these situations as soon as possible. We educate first, but we also have to give tickets and make arrests. We work with Horry County Alcohol Enforcement Agency to do compliance checks at stores and bars in the vicinity surrounding the campus to make sure we’re all on the same page.”
The second leading challenge on campus is larceny. “The students need to help us out with this one. They need to be responsible for their property,” says Mezzapelle. “Don’t leave your residence hall room or car doors unlocked. Don’t leave your phones or laptops or backpacks unattended. Don’t make it easy for a thief.”
Regardless of the challenges CCU’s Department of Public Safety face, Roper says there’s one certainty. “We’re going to enforce the law, fairly and equally, because that’s the only way we know how to do it.”