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Griffin: Shift training center cost to school security

Henderson County Sheriff's candidate Lowell Griffin issued a statement on Wednesday opposing a $22 million training center that Sheriff Charlie McDonald has proposed. Griffin says he would accomplish training for less money and would shift the cost of the center and its operation to school security.

"If I receive your support and the nomination as sheriff in May, I will immediately push to revisit the issue of the training center," he said. "I will offer an alternative idea that I feel will benefit everyone involved. Better training for the officers at a tremendously reduced price tag for the public, should be the win win we all would appreciate."

Here is Griffin's statement:

I consider myself a conservative with a true background in public safety. As both, I recognize that tax money is real money and that there is no magical tree from which to obtain this money. Being fiscally responsible must be paramount to anyone that manages tax money or is responsible for any part of the budgeting process. Let’s look at an issue that is the $22.5-million question.

$22.5 million for a training facility is a prime example of the exorbitant spending that is currently taking place. While there are many more pressing issues plaguing our sheriff’s department today that taxpayer dollars could help fix, one whole cent of property tax was added to the budget in 2016 specifically for this facility. While this may not seem like much to some, this equates to $1.2 million per year that could be better spent.

While training is of great importance for the officers, this can be accomplished at a much lower cost in more effective ways. The 6-year-old facility that the sheriff’s office now occupies contains classrooms with state of the art technology to facilitate both teaching and learning. To satisfy the immediate needs of firearms training and qualification, there is an indoor range in the county, which is already maintained by taxpayer dollars, at the Western North Carolina Justice Academy in Edneyville. As a law enforcement officer and law enforcement instructor, I truly realize the need for realistic training. The world is dynamic and the training necessary to meet our current demands must be as well. Thousands of hours of training as both an instructor and a student has provided me with the ideas to develop a training facility that would provide better quality training at a mere fraction of the cost of the proposed center. This facility would not only serve the need for law enforcement training, but also provide additional fire, rescue, and EMS training. My ideas would provide optimal training that would benefit officers enrolled in basic training, patrol, S.W.A.T., K-9 units, investigations, and much more.

The 22.5 million dollar price tag does not include the annual operational cost which, when adding personnel to run such a facility, would be well over $100,000 per year. The proposed center is perplexing in that it is slated to be under the control of the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office. It should fall under the control of our law enforcement and emergency services training partners at Blue Ridge Community College. Under their administration, the center would directly benefit all county and municipal officers while offering BRCC the option to host accredited training and conferences. This option essentially allows the college to recover some enrollment and training fees from North Carolina. The bottom line is this investment could benefit law enforcement and emergency services while also providing a benefit to our college, which is a direct benefit to our entire community.

In my opinion, the money that has been earmarked for the proposed facility could be used in a more beneficial way for Henderson County. One consideration for this funding is strengthening school security. Additional school resource officers, re-engineering existing facilities to maximize security needs, and adding or updating camera systems are just a few ideas that could be realized. This is money that the taxpayers are already paying, so its use would not increase current taxes on you, the taxpayer.