HUNTSVILLE, Ala.- Next week, city leaders are expected to pass their $521 million dollar budget. And a big piece of that funding will benefit the Huntsville police force.
“As we grow by leaps and bounds in this city, our department is growing as well,” Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray told a crowd on Friday.
As he presided over one of the largest promotion ceremonies in Huntsville’s history, Chief McMurray is ushering in some moving and shaking set to happen in 2020.
“Law enforcement across the nation is hurting. And when you have good qualified men and women doing this job, it breeds enthusiasm,” newly promoted Sgt. Timothy Richards said.
The ceremony may be one of the last of its kind inside the former Johnson High School, which is being converted into a rec center.
“We’re one of the oldest police academies in the state,” McMurray said. “We’ve been training officers here for 50 years. We’ve never planted our flag in a single location and said, ‘This is Huntsville police. We’re here’.”
But planting a flag is expected to happen next year, as Huntsville city leaders are set to approve a nearly half-billion-dollar budget and increase the size of the police force to 676 officers.
“We lose about 30 people a year. We’re a very large organization. And the city council, it looks like they’re going to give us eight more positions,” McMurray said.
Chief McMurray says police will pack up and move out of the old high school and into a brand new public safety training center. Construction is set to begin on the new center along Triana Boulevard.
“You’ll probably see them start pouring concrete this spring. Hopefully, in 12 months, they’ll have that facility laid out,” McMurray said.
The $10 million training center isn’t the only big-ticket project for the police force. The city and the FBI are splitting the bill to expand the firing range in Triana, creating a shooting range that can be used rain or shine.
“You’re going to get the largest multi-use firing range in the country,” McMurray said.
“The chief’s doing a great job. We’re getting top-notch facilities to train at, to produce better officers, better supervisors. It’s an exciting time,” newly promoted Sgt. Ricky Stephens said.
Chief McMurray says he expects construction at the firing range will be finished before the end of 2020.
The new fiscal year begins in October. The Huntsville City Council will likely vote on the budget on Thursday.