06/25/17 — Public safety training center planned for county

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Public safety training center planned for county

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 25, 2017 1:45 AM

The company designing Wayne County's new 911 center has been hired to also design a public safety training facility for fire, law enforcement and rescue personnel.

The center will be built in a wooded area behind the Wayne Community College campus.

Wayne County commissioners last week selected Stewart, Cooper, Newell Architects of Gastonia to design the training center contingent on a contract being negotiated for the project.

The contract will come back to commissioners for approval.

In April, commissioners authorized County Manager George Wood to issue a request for qualifications for an architect to develop a master plan for such a facility.

Assistant County Manager Craig Honeycutt told commissioners at their Tuesday meeting that 11 companies had responded to the request for qualifications. Three were interviewed on Monday by a selection committee.

The committee's recommendation was to negotiate a contract with Stewart, Cooper, Newell Architects, Honeycutt said.

The company has extensive experience in the state, especially in dealing with community colleges and training centers, he noted.

While there was little discussion about the company, Commissioner Joe Daughtery asked if approving the training center meant it would be used by all of the county's fire departments so that there would not be individual training centers scattered throughout the county.

"We would like for that to be," Honeycutt said. "The fire departments are still separate and independent, but our consensus would be that we would encourage them to specifically use the training center at the community college."

Wood said fire departments may decide to use their existing training facilities.

However, the facilities at Wayne Community College will be a complete training facility, he said.

"None of them have all of the components that this one will have," he said.

"I think one of the goals here was to save money by having a centralized training center," Daughtery said. "I just want to make sure that we in fact are not going to have a new training center and also are spending resources for individual training centers."

It would be up to commissioners to approve any future fire department training centers since they set the fire tax rates, Wood said.

Daughtery said he supports the project, but that he would hope the county would have an understanding with the fire departments that they would not use fire tax revenues to build their own training centers.

The county will not accomplish much if the departments continue to do that, he said.

"I can't sit here today and tell you that none of the 25 will try to do something like that," Wood said. "But you set the tax rate."

Commissioner Wayne Aycock, who has 50 years in the fire service, said that Daughtery was correct.

"I think our intent is to build a modern training center at the college that will benefit all of the fire departments, the sheriff's department, any first responders," he said. "It covers all of them.

"If we can get the facility built and up and running, I don't think we are going to have an issue with fire department still wanting to spend a lot of money at their individual stations. The ones that have invested money, I am quite sure they will want to keep those facilities up. But those facilities are nothing to the magnitude of what is going to be out at the college. Sometimes you need some small things around your station to work with but nothing like the magnitude of what this is going to be."

Commissioners have not discussed either a timetable or potential scope and cost for the project.

Wood has said construction would need to take place over several budget years on a phased basis.

Also, the intent is for the county to build the facility and not go through the state construction office in order to speed up the process, he said.

Once completed the training center would be turned over to the college.

The college is "solidly behind" the idea, and it makes a lot of sense to put the facility there, Wood has said.