Sheriff’s Office may get new training facility

The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office may get a considerable expansion in training facilities according to a proposed master plan for what was formerly the Links golf course near the eastern border of the county.

The master plan for the roughly 200 acres which the county purchased last year was presented to the commission at their recent retreat.

The plan showed planned renovations to the existing club house on the property that would create new office, conference, and training spaces. In addition to increased training space, the master plan calls for a driving course and outdoor gun range.

The total estimated cost of the building renovation was pegged at around $800,000.

The master plan also calls for a smaller training area for county fire/EMS, a storage facility for public works, and a recreation area that would include walking trails and potentially a frisbee golf course. Approximately 65 acres of the property were identified as potential future areas for development which the county could market for residential or other uses.

The proposed driving course for the sheriff’s office use has also apparently garnered some interest from Pinewood Studios. County Administrator Steve Rapson said the special effects coordinator at Pinewood had expressed interest in using the driving course, and the county may design the course partly to serve this purpose, though it would primarily be designed for training for sheriff’s deputies.

Rapson said the new gun range would be a significant improvement over the current available facility, saying “it’s not even a comparison.”

The property is bordered by some residential areas, and Rapson said county staff would be meeting with those residents before moving forward. The gun range was mentioned as a potential noise issue for those residents.

“A lot of folks bought those homes thinking it was always going to be a golf course,” Rapson said, adding that the county could try to mitigate some of the issues with noise from the range but could not solve all of it.

Commissioners Steve Brown and Randy Ognio questioned whether the sheriff’s office needs as much added office space as was presented in the plan.

I think this more than what they need. I think this is a dream. I mean, we’re far exceeding what larger counties have,” Ognio said. “I just worry about the burden we’re going to be putting on the county as a whole.”

Commissioner Pota Coston, who has a background in law enforcement, said a quality training facility would be useful for a wide range of departments including local municipalities as well as those in neighboring counties. She said the county could recoup some money by charging those groups to rent the facilities. Rapson agreed the facility would likely have a regional draw, but also said the county could not expect to make a great deal of revenue from renting it  out.

Rapson said he agreed with some of Ognio’s concerns but noted that the new facility could be helpful for certain types of training. In particular, he said the plan is to construct a mock jail cell for training of jail staff, whereas currently that training has to be done at the actual jail, which he said is far from ideal.

Rapson also noted that county staff had conceived the master plan as if the county intended to “build the entire thing out,” but the commission could choose to “rope it back in” if they preferred.

On the issue of noise from the gun range, Public Works Director Phil Mallon confirmed that some property owners are “very concerned about that.” The county intends to go to the site and test how disruptive the noise would be, and may enlist the help of a sound engineer to study the matter.

Rapson said it is likely that noise will be a lesser problem as compared to residents who believed they were going to be living next to a golf course for the foreseeable future rather than a gun range.

Ognio also discussed the possibility of utilizing some of the space for public works, saying the existing facility for the department is not adequate.

Rapson said those possibilities will be considered.

Chairman Charles Oddo suggested the commission should talk directly with Sheriff Barry Babb to better understand his needs for training space.

“I think it would be a good idea for Sheriff Babb to sit with us and explain why he needs it because this is going from zero to 60 in two seconds. It’s nice, but it’s expensive,” Oddo said.

Currently $300,000 is budgeted for fiscal year 2015 for the project and Rapson said an additional $1.1 million in funding is projected across the next two years, for a total of around $1.4 million in budgeted funds.

 

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About

Josh Akeman is the managing editor of the Fayette County News, Today in Peachtree City, and East Coweta Journal. He is a graduate of Fayette County High School and the University of Georgia.


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