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Training center divides District 4 candidates

Sheriff Charlie McDonald wants to build a firing range and training center on 99 acres on Macedonia Road. Sheriff Charlie McDonald wants to build a firing range and training center on 99 acres on Macedonia Road.

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Sheriff Charlie McDonald’s effort to build a firing range and law enforcement training center has become an issue in his own campaign and in a county commission race.

Don Ward, the two-term commissioner running against Rebecca McCall for the open District 4 seat, came out against a law enforcement training center, including the lower-cost version in Saluda the Board of Commissioners endorsed last week.
“I am in opposition to any current proposal for a new training center in Henderson County at this time, at any cost,” Ward said. “It is unnecessary as adequate facilities in both county and state are already available. Training is always imperative; however, law enforcement has access to the North Carolina Justice Center locally as well as access to other state training facilities.”
Like Lowell Griffin, McDonald’s opponent in the May 8 Republican primary, Ward favors spending the money on school security.
“As a commissioner, I could not justify a $6 million plus tax expense on currently unnecessary training facilities,” Ward said. “There are more immediate needs to insure safety and security in our schools that must be met.”

Ward's opponent in the May 8 primary, Rebecca McCall, said she supports a training center, although she did not endorse the Macedonia Road site necessarily.

“I do support that we need to build a facility," she said. "It’s been proven that the Justice Academy is not adequate with type of training law enforcement to provide the scenario or different types of training they need to be aware of. I never did support the $20 million version of that.

"I really have nothing to say about the location because I have not been involved with the location of that or anything. I have read some of the information on Facebook and one thing I haven’t seen noted in the concern about the sound from the gunfire is that I am aware that silencers can be used so there won’t be interference (in the neighborhood). It’s kind of a double-edged sword because if you want to eliminate sound, it has to be enclosed and if it’s enclosed the cost is going to go up. But I think they have found a location that’s away from the majority of the population. You’re never going to satisfy everyone.”

The abrupt action by the Board of Commissioners last week to endorse the Saluda property — the fourth try at siting a law enforcement training center — tipped the scales for Rocky Hyder, the retired county emergency management director. Hyder announced he was endorsing Griffin.
“Examine Lowell’s platform and then compare that with recent actions by the county commissioners,” Hyder said. “I have never seen a group of commissioners scramble so hard to save face for a sitting sheriff.”
He also sides with Griffin on equipping deputies with body cameras.
“I can’t imagine a future where video, possibly even live video streams from law enforcement officers are not standard practice,” Hyder said.
Yorke Pharr, who has opposed McDonald’s efforts for shooting ranges at now four different sites, said it’s fitting that the sheriff's primary comes up in less than a month.
“This should be a political referendum,” he said at a Saluda town board meeting Monday. “There’s one sheriff that is for it and one candidate for sheriff that is not and I hope people that do not want this thing will understand which one they need to vote for on this matter.”