A public safety training facility for fire, law enforcement and rescue personnel could be built on the Wayne Community College campus.

Wayne County commissioners Tuesday morning authorized County Manager George Wood to proceed with issuing a request for qualifications to hire an architect to develop a master plan for such a facility.

It would be built in what is now a wooded area behind Wayne Community College.

Commissioners did not discuss either a timetable or potential scope and cost for the project.

"The college is supportive of this idea as they already provide classes and certification for law enforcement, fire and emergency medical personnel," Wood said. "They are hamstrung by not having an on-site facility for the actual field training that accompanies the classroom instruction as well as for continuing education for veteran personnel.

"The actual construction would need to take place over several budget years on a phased basis. Our intent, if we move forward with this, is the county would do the construction and not go through state construction because we would like to get it built this century. We would build it and turn it over to the college."

The college is "solidly behind" the idea, and it makes a lot of sense to put the facility there, Wood said.

"One thing we are not including at this point is a firing range," Wood said. "We have that already with the sheriff's department in a more isolated setting so we don't plan on changing that. As you know we have discussed the need for a training site for our fire, sheriff and EMS employees. There is currently a fire burn structure at the jetport, and the sheriff leases land for a firing range."

The jetport structure has not been used in about eight years because and needs major repairs, and some county fire departments have some sort of training facilities, Wood said.

The city of Goldsboro and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base have some facilities as well, he said.

Wood said he, Assistant County Manager Craig Honeycutt and Office of Emergency Service staff have been meeting with a working group appointed by the Wayne County Firefighters Association to discuss the need for such a facility.

The group recently expanded to bring in Sheriff Larry Pierce and Beverly Deans, law enforcement/public safety division chair at Wayne Community College.

"At the last meeting the consensus of all of us was to hire an architect/engineer to develop a master plan for a public safety facility on Wayne Community College property," Wood said.

A seven-member working group has been selected to interview and recommend an architect to do the work.

The members are Honeycutt, Mel Powers, Office of Emergency Services director, Pierce or his designee, Mrs. Deans, Ken Jones, Pikeville fire chief and firefighter association president, Phil Shivar, Indian Springs fire chief, and Chad Cobb, Elroy assistant chief and a captain on the Goldsboro Fire Department.

Wood said he and Honeycutt would negotiate the contract which will have to be approved by commissioners.

The committee would also visit other facilities to get ideas and work with the architect on the master plan, he said.

All volunteer fire departments are struggling to recruit firefighters, Wood said.

A solid training facility would make Wayne Community College a leader in training, and its proximity to volunteer fire department should help in recruitment, Wood said.

"In addition, Mrs. Deans informed us that in their EMT certification classes the last semester is devoted to classes to obtain the firefighter one designation," he said. "Thus there is larger pool of young people who will be given that training and then hopefully volunteer as firefighters.

"The trend, as we have studied this, is to put these facilities at the community college as their function is to train and certify these personnel. That also assures that the facilities will be kept up as college facilities, as you all know, are maintained by the county."