By the time Halloween arrives, construction at the much-anticipated Wiregrass Public Safety Center should be close to finishing, according to one city official.
Randy Morris, director of the city’s General Services department, said “most everything” that will be constructed at the regional training facility will be finished by the end of October. General Services manages the city’s building projects and building maintenance.
The Wiregrass Public Safety Center, an approximately $22 million facility mostly funded through a Wiregrass Foundation grant, seeks to provide first-class training opportunities for area first responders. The Ennis Road complex provides several amenities like a “burn” house that simulates residential fires, a sniper range, and a rail-car derailment training scenario.
Officials tout the facility will provide access to training aids for many departments throughout the Wiregrass, including volunteer fire departments. They also note many of the amenities will lead to community building and community service events, such as teaching residents about how to cross railroad tracks safely and how to properly evacuate a residential fire.
Morris said some of the “props” first responders will use in their training remain under construction, while some road paving is still needed. Additionally Jubilee Builders framed the burn house, also known as the “Teach Me” House, in the past week.
The administrative building is about 95 percent complete, Morris noted.
Even though most of the construction is finished, the police and fire departments will likely wait until November to begin occupying space at the facility due to the National Peanut Festival and training schedules, Morris said. Dothan Police Chief Steve Parrish said the department will not likely move boxes into the facility until the National Peanut Festival Parade concludes but noted some office furniture should arrive at the center soon.
“We’re preparing to make a transition of the training division, which is (at a facility) away from the department,” he said. “We’re very excited to take the next step of moving in and getting set up.”
Officials have scheduled the grand opening for the facility for Jan. 28, 2020.
A ceremony to break ground on the training center occurred in February 2018, and project leaders had anticipated completing construction in 18 months – or August of this year. Weather events– namely Hurricane Michael and the deluges of rain that followed – caused some delays, Morris said.
The recent drought itself has not been a challenge, but the lingering heat has reduced the speed of construction, Morris said. Despite it being the first week of October, highs continue to approach – and even reach – 100 degrees.
“The heat has been a huge factor. It’s brutal,” Morris said. “Some guys are working six days, and it just drains you.”