Trooper Academy needs $1 million renovation

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Despite several recent press reports saying the State Trooper Academy in Craig Field may be moved to Fort McClellan, both members of the Alabama Department of Public Safety and members of the Alabama Governor’s Office said there are no present plans in the works to move the academy.

“Let me just say that what we want is to make Alabama safe by churning out the best and most qualified troopers we possibly can,” said Mike Kanarick, a deputy press secretary in Gov. Don Siegelman’s office.

“But,” added Kanarick, “at the moment, there has been no plans made [by our office] to move the facility.”

Public Safety director Col. James Alexander similarly said plans to move the academy were not in the works at the department at this time.

“We will continue to operate in Selma until someone makes a decision to do otherwise,” said Alexander. “But there is no emergency, and we are not currently planning on moving the facility.”

Assistant Public Safety director Lt. Colonel Charles Andrews did, however, say that the academy was in dire need of renovations. He noted the heating and cooling system, dormitory, elevators, dining facility, a gymnasium and other equipment at the facility needed to be repaired as soon as possible.

Andrews said the cost of repairing the facility could total as much as $1 million.

“Most of the stuff we have over there is at least over 40 years old,” Andrews said. “The problem is some of the stuff we have there is so old that it would be very difficult to find adequate parts to replace it.”

The Department of Public Safety gained ownership of the property in Craig Field in 1978, after the Federal Government closed the base. Andrews said the best time to have done the renovations on the facility would have been during that time.

“At that time, it would have been ideal,” he said. “But the problem is [renovations] had to be put off because other things needed funding,” he said. “The budget was under a tight squeeze and the funding to do it was just never there.”

Since then, in the midst of a limited budget, other things, such as funding for adequate patrol cars and funding trooper classes, has taken precedence over funding renovations at the academy, Andrews said. “We just basically had to put [funding renovations] off for other purposes,” he said.

State Sen. Hank Sanders (D-Selma) said he was not aware of all the problems at the facility until reports about the facility possibly moving to Ft. McClellan surfaced in the newspapers.

“I just wish we had been told more about it,” Sanders said. “I will do everything I can to make sure that the facility stays here,” he said. “I will also do everything I possibly can to make sure that there is adequate funding for this facility.”

Public safety members, however, did say that they were considering the idea of closing regional training academies around the state and consolidating them into one place.

“Economically, it would be a lot cheaper if we did this,” Andrews said.