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Residents aim to improve firing range
Public meeting Thursday to discuss the renovations needed to update law enforcement training facility
Statesboro Police Chief Mike Broadhead

Renovating the Statesboro-Bulloch County Public Safety Training Facility, or firing range, has been a topic of discussion for several years, but the project, close to becoming reality, is in need of funding.

An informational public meeting will be held Thursday at noon at RJ's Steaks & Seafood, with Statesboro police Chief Mike Broadhead speaking about the project. Plans for renovating the facility, including a new building with offices, training area and bathrooms, is a joint effort between the Statesboro Police Officers Foundation and the Bulloch County Sheriff's Foundation, both of which are 501(c)3 nonprofit agencies.

Local residents Bill Herring and Ray Driggers organized the meeting, which is a Dutch treat meal, meaning each person in attendance pays for his or her own meal.

The meeting is not backed by any specific group, but the two men simply wish to help the project succeed, Herring said.

"I have come to have a great deal of respect for our Chief of Police Mike Broadhead," he said. "I have asked Mike to speak at a gathering of my friends, who all wish to maintain quality personnel in the law enforcement agencies in our community."

He urges people to come to the lunch meeting to support the renovation and hopefully "to contribute to the (Bulloch County Sheriff's Foundation and Statesboro Police Officer's Foundation) that will build this needed facility. "

While he will speak Thursday, Broadhead said Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown and the Sheriff's Office are equal partners.

"This is a joint project between two entities. Currently there is an aging cinder block classroom and bathrooms at the (firing) range, but it is in poor condition and the classroom is pretty small," he said. "The idea is to build a new classroom building that will include bathrooms and indoor storage for ammunition, targets, etc.  Currently most of those items are stored in shipping containers on the property, or held at the sheriff or police headquarters buildings and taken to the range as needed."

The training facility is located off Highway 301 North, across from the entrance to the Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport.

Bulloch County sheriff's Investigator Jim Riggs said he is excited about the project he said has been discussed "since Lynn Anderson was sheriff."

Many other agencies use the facility. 

"So many state, federal and local agencies use it, such as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service, federal probation, Drug Enforcement Agency," he said. 

The Statesboro Fire and Bulloch County Fire departments also train there.

Needed for the project

Asking the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners and Statesboro City Council for money to renovate the facility could take time, delaying the project, Riggs said. Also, budgeting concerns could delay the project even longer.

Brian Kent, who works closely with law enforcement and often pilots a helicopter when deputies and officers are seeking fugitives, said the labor and most materials needed to build the facility have already been donated "in kind." Kent owns a construction company and said he is the project consultant.

However, "we need about $50,000 to $60,000" cash to complete the facility, he said. 

Kent hopes to see a groundbreaking in July.

"The plan is for the two foundations to raise funds and 'in-kind' donations to build the new structure with all private money, and then turn over the building to the Sheriff's Office and Police Department to co-own and operate," Broadhead said. "The property is already co-owned by both agencies and is a shared facility, also used by Statesboro Fire and Bulloch County Fire for training. The classroom, once built, will simply be added to the current use agreements between organizations."

Both the Statesboro Police Officers Foundation and the Bulloch County Sheriff's Foundation are private groups of citizens who formed the entities to provide support for the law enforcement agencies' community programs, officers and deputies and the departments as a whole.

Each foundation is involved in community events, hosts fundraisers and helps to connect law enforcement with the public. Each foundation has a Facebook page, where more information can be found.

For more information about the Bulloch County Sheriff's Foundation, call (912) 764-1791. For more information about the Statesboro Police Officers Foundation, call (912) 681-5000.

Donations to either foundation, earmarked for the training facility project, will go toward the fundraising goal.

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.