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Police facility funded

The City of Andalusia was notified Monday that its application for both a USDA grant and loan with which to build a police training facility has been approved.

The facility, which will be built on 15 acres owned by the city behind Monte-zuma Center on Academy Drive, will be used to train local law enforcement officers, as well as officers from smaller departments in the area. It will have one classroom with a capacity of 85 people, and two smaller classrooms with a capacity of 30 each, as well as offices, restroom facilities and a garage area. There also will be a firing range with 20 pistol lanes and a rifle area and a “shoot” house, used for close-quarters tactical training.

“This happened quickly,” Mayor Earl Johnson said of the news Monday afternoon. “It hasn’t been three weeks since we went over to (the USDA) offices in Dothan to sign the paperwork.”

Specifically, the city received a $259,822 grant for the facility, and will finance $442,527 through USDA at 4.475 percent interest.

“I was confident we had a good application because of the assurances we received from local folks,” Johnson said. “Even they expected it to take longer.”

Johnson said this is a “good project” that is much needed in this area.

“We will be the only municipality of this size with a facility,” he said. “The City of Florence recently completed a facility, but they are larger than we are. There’s not another city in South Alabama other than Dothan or Mobile that has a training facility.”

Johnson said the facility will be staffed initially with Andalusia Police Department employees who will provide training in addition to their routine work.

“We will start out with our people and pull in other trainers as needed,” he said. “If the demand steps up and we can justify it, then we’ll consider having staff assigned just to the training facility.”

Site prep work has already begun. Johnson said the site prep will be the city’s match for receiving the grant.

Chief Wilbur Williams said every sworn officer in the state of Alabama is required to have at least 12 hours of training a year, which he feels will create a demand from departments within a 90-mile radius of Andalusia.