Two volunteer groups — the Bulloch County Sheriff's Foundation and the Statesboro Police Officers Foundation — concluded a seven-year mission when they ceremonially turned the new Public Safety Training Building over to the law enforcement agencies last week.
The 3,300-square-foot steel building on a concrete slab was built with more than $260,000 in donations. This included $56,000 in cash and more than $207,000 of in-kind donations such as building materials and services, reported Brian Kent, a Bulloch County Sheriff's Foundation member who chaired the building committee.
"When all of this started, a group saw a need and recognized that need," he said.
In remarks during the dedication ceremony last Wednesday, he noted the hut-like previous public safety training classroom beside the firearms practice range. He traced the effort to replace it with something better to a gathering of law enforcement officers and other community members held Oct. 16, 2012.
"I don't know if I would ever have dreamed that it would take as long as it did, but it evolved and came together, and this community came together," Kent said.
The original floor plan was developed in January 2013. But he said it wasn't until a meeting in August 2017, after Sheriff Noel Brown, who had taken office that January, asked where the project stood, that things started moving forward again.
"It really rekindled the fire," Kent said.
With both foundations realizing that a fundraising drive would be needed, the building committee was formed and held its first meeting Dec. 6, 2017.
Bulloch County Commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson and Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar then signed an intergovernmental agreement May 8, 2018, regarding the building's use and ownership. A building permit was issued June 6, 2018, and the groundbreaking was held that July 23, Kent noted.
At last, the building was completed and the certificate of occupancy was issued on Oct. 25, 2019.
"With those funds and donated services, we have built this beautiful building 100% off of donations," Kent said. "What an awesome testament to our community, Statesboro and Bulloch County, and what an awesome place to be!"
A large wall plaque inside the building lists more than 95 donors, including businesses, individuals, couples, professional offices, civic groups, memorials and court and law enforcement agencies.
Already in use
The training building includes two offices, four storage rooms, a kitchen and two bathrooms, in addition to the main classroom space. That space is equipped with folding tables and chairs.
It is located on the same tract of land with the firearms range and the Fire Department's training tower and burn simulator, across U.S. Highway 301 North from the Statesboro Bulloch County Airport.
So the new facility is closer to the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office, also on 301 North, than to the Statesboro Police Department on West Grady Street.
However, the department had outgrown the training space at its headquarters, Statesboro Chief of Police Mike Broadhead said after the ceremony. So the SPD in January started using the new Statesboro-Bulloch County Public Safety Training Building for its regular training sessions four Wednesdays each month.
The department has regular training days for all officers on the first and second Wednesdays and for its SWAT team on the third and fourth Wednesday.
"Every officer gets a training day every month, but that means half the Police Department is in training on any given Wednesday, and so the squad room that we use for roll call, we've just outgrown that," Broadhead said. "So we started doing our training out here last month, and it's just great because we have plenty of room … and then the Police Department's operation doesn't get interrupted by having the training day."
Saying 'thank you'
During the ceremony, Brannen Smith, a Statesboro Police Officers Foundation member who also served on the building committee, made remarks referring to law enforcement officers as "sheep dogs" trained to protect more sheep-like, peaceful people, from "wolves."
"This facility will allow our first responders to train more effectively and efficiently that they may better be prepared to protect us when the wolves who are surely out there come knocking on our door," Smith said.
The building is also a way to say for the community to say "thank you" to the officers and other public safety personnel, he added.
At his request, the crowd observed a moment of silence in memory of Ty Cobler, whose family had also been included in the opening prayer. A founding member of the Statesboro Police Officers Foundation, Cobler, who owned and operated TC Outdoors, died earlier Feb. 5 of cancer at age 62.