Local law enforcement officers will soon have a new training facility to hone their skills.
Columbia County officials recently approved a $937,747 bid to construct a new training building at the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office campus on County Camp Road in Appling. The funds were approved as part of the 2011-16 one-cent sales tax.
The new 6,000-square-foot facility will be constructed in the place of the former county Animal Services building, used before the department moved to a new location on William Few Parkway. That building was in disrepair and it wasn’t feasible to renovate it, Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle said.
It will not replace but will be used in addition to the current building near the jail that includes a classroom, offices, storage and firing range, Whittle said.
“That’s a viable training facility as it sits,” Whittle said. “It’s just not large enough. … We simply need more room here.”
The new building will include two classrooms capable of holding 50 people and will accommodate modern technology. Those classrooms can be combined to create one large classroom.
Many agencies besides the sheriff’s office use the current building, including the state law enforcement academy, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, state Board of Pardons and Paroles and the FBI.
“The (building) we have now has a waiting list,” Whittle said. “Our training is literally on a waiting list.”
Having a regional training facility in Columbia County saves the taxpayers money by keeping training local and avoiding travel expenses. It also brings valuable training resources and instructors to the county.
Whittle said training is always ongoing with his 368 employees on a variety of topics.
“It takes a tremendous amount of training just to stay abreast” of changes in precedents, procedures and law changes, Whittle said.
The new building is slated to include locker room facilities with showers. Showers are important for deputies and others involved in defense and weapons tactics, civil disturbance (riot) and pepper spray training.
County Development Services Director Paul Scarbary said he expects to begin demolishing the former Animal Services building in mid-December. He hopes construction to be complete next summer.
Whittle is looking forward to it.
“We’ll have training the day we open the door.”