Facility to centralize police firearms, driving training

LAWRENCEVILLE - When Gwinnett police candidates want to practice driving, they head to the state public safety center in Forsyth County. When they want to practice their weapons skills, they have enough room for 10 shooters at a firing range inside the police headquarters in Lawrenceville. And for classroom learning, there's an old elementary school in Buford.

But in a little more than two months, all of this will be centralized on one campus on Winder Highway in Lawrenceville. The completely new complex will feature classrooms, offices, a driving course and firing ranges.

At 21 acres, the driving course will be the largest part of the complex.

"In order to get 40, 50 miles an hour you need that room to get those kinds of speeds," said operations and project manager Tom Medley.

The course will be used to practice high-speed pursuits and emergency maneuvers. Medley said police will use special "skid cars" to simulate different driving conditions. Instead of covering the course with water to simulate hydroplaning, the driving instructor can shift weight inside the car and adjust hydraulics with a remote control for the same effect.

Medley said the driving course is built to handle fire trucks as well, but he was unsure if other departments plan on using it.

When it comes to academics, the training complex will be able to handle six times as many students as the school where police currently work, Medley said. Six classrooms will hold 30 students each. In the same 28,000-square-foot building there will also be a media center, gym and offices.

Finally, the firing range will have a total of 44 lanes at ranges varying from 25 to 100 yards. The 14 50-yard lanes will not be ready by the time the complex is opened, Medley said, but they are still part of the plans.

The training complex costs almost $30 million, funded by Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes in 1997 and 2001.

Ground was broken on the complex on April 19, 2005, and police said it is on target for a mid-October opening. Architectural designs were provided by Pond & Company, while Potts Construction Services handled the assembling of the complex.