GONZALES — The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office unveiled its new $3.3 million training center last week.
Under clear blue skies with more than 100 people in attendance, including several sheriffs and law enforcement officials from around the region, Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley on Friday dedicated and gave tours of what is being called “the crown jewel” of the Sheriff’s Office.
Located on St. Landry Road, across from the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center, Wiley said he hopes the training center not only will serve as one of the premier law enforcement training facilities in the state, but also will allow for cooperation with the Expo Center during times of emergency.
Many of the high-ranking officials who work under Wiley praised him for his vision and effort in bringing the training center to fruition, while Wiley deflected the praise toward his predecessor, former Sheriff Harold Tridico, who Wiley said hired most of the leadership of today’s Sheriff’s Office.
“It does take vision,” Wiley said. “It does take creative leaders like the ones I’m surrounded by up here and my predecessor, but it also takes money and our taxpayers have been very generous.”
The sheriff said the department’s training staff, led by Lt. Col. Paul Robert, has been at the training center for approximately two months.
The new center, which sits on 68 acres donated by BASF near the old 18-acre training center, took approximately 18 months to build, about seven months longer than anticipated due to some “weather issues and construction issues,” Wiley said.
It features 8,110 square feet of space dedicated to two theater-style classrooms with Internet connections at each desk and seating for 100. Wiley dedicated the two offices on Friday in honor of Tridico, who attended the dedication, and the late Capt. Robert LeBlanc Sr.
Tridico said he was honored to have one of the classrooms named after him and proud to see how much the Sheriff’s Office has grown under Wiley, who served as Tridico’s chief deputy.
“This facility is one that many people probably will be surprised of,” Tridico said.
The training center also features an industrial kitchen, which Robert said was used during Hurricane Isaac, and more than 20,000 square feet of covered storage space for the sheriff’s crisis response team and emergency supplies.
Capt. C.J. Matthews, who serves in the Sheriff’s Office’s training division and has trained at centers across the state, said the new facility is state of the art and second to none.
“The new training center is something to be proud of,” Matthews said.
“It’s made a big difference already with our training,” Robert said.