By building its own, Fulton could have a facility that is more convenient and cheaper in the long run, Anderson said.
Atlanta’s project, dubbed “Cop City” by its opponents, will cost $90 million, and the taxpayers’ share of the public-private endeavor has only grown since it was first announced in 2021. Earlier this month, the plan cleared a final legislative hurdle despite frequent protests that have at times turned into violent clashes with law enforcement. Opponents have pledged further demonstrations and legal action to stop construction of the facility.
The county has had its own police training facility for more than 30 years, originally in an old elementary school on Campbell Drive, Fulton Police Chief Wade Yates said. In 2005, it moved into the 25,000-square-foot building designed as the shooting range for the 1996 Olympics. But that facility wasn’t built for long-term use. Now it leaks and the HVAC is unreliable, he said.
“The building’s just falling down,” Yates said.
Soon, ownership will be transferred to the city of South Fulton along with the adjacent Wolf Creek Amphitheater, the latest in a number of properties that have been transferred to South Fulton following the city’s incorporation in 2017, Anderson said.
“Because our police training academy is housed there, we entered into a 10-year right-to-use (agreement) for that facility. We’re probably two years into that now,” Anderson said.
But the county will need to move out eventually.
Construction could start this summer and be finished by mid-2024, Anderson said.
The price is $15 million, largely financed through a $60 million bond used to finance a new animal shelter. But as the shelter’s cost has grown from $32 million to $40 million, and construction costs generally continue to rise, the county may needs to supplement the bond with additional money. County staff propose redirecting $3.45 million from the facility reserve fund to cover the training center’s shortfall.
The Fulton center provides basic law enforcement training for up to 200 officers annually, through 12-week sessions held six times a year, Yates said. Another 5,600 officers a year take various classes at the center, ranging from one day to two weeks, he said.
Courses offered there include certifications, crisis intervention, first responder and firearms training, among other programs, according to the county website.
The Fulton County Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, Marshal’s Office and 60 other local, state and federal agencies use it. That includes MARTA police, Georgia State University police, and driver training for Atlanta city police, Yates said.
“We serve all of the cities in Fulton County,” he said. “I think every single police jurisdiction in the county uses our facility.”
The planned training center joins a number of major projects already underway. The county’s redeveloping Fulton Industrial Boulevard, putting $100 million into the Fulton County Executive Airport, building the new animal shelter, and buying up old hotels and other properties for future redevelopment. An emergency operations center, slated for the airport, has been put on hold due to rising costs, Anderson said.
Officials plan to buy an existing building near the new animal shelter to renovate as the public safety training center.
That building is structurally sound, but needs some renovations, Anderson said. The county plans to turn it into a 34,000-square-foot training facility with six classrooms.
The county also wants a new driver training course and a two-story “shoot house” with adjustable walls, both which would be built later at the new training facility, Yates said.