“This is a win-win for us,” Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said.
Last February, the Georgia Public Safety Training Center announced that budgetary issues would close the basic mandate training center off Deans Bridge Road in Blythe on June 30. That would have forced area agencies to pay transportation and meal costs for officers to go to training facilities in middle and north Georgia.
Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle and Strength went to Atlanta and convinced lawmakers to put the money back in the budget until the end of the fiscal year.
“In the process of doing that, it gave everyone time to work out the details, which brings us to where are we now,” said Richard Dixon, the manager of the Blythe training center, which held its final class this week.
From this point on, the Richmond and Columbia county sheriff’s offices will alternate hosting the course at their own training facilities. When the 13 agencies have a dozen or more students, they will notify the Georgia Public Safety Training Center headquarters in Forsyth, near Macon, to send someone instruct the course.
The first class will begin April 16 at the Columbia County training facility.
Whittle said he expects some challenges, but nothing compared to the strain on the budget if he had to send his officers to Forsyth.
“I understand the problem with the state. It’s a cost-cutting measure,” Whittle said. “But for us, it’s important to have a local community academy.”