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Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson, center, and county Commissioner Bebe Heiskell, right, uncover a portrait of former Sheriff Ralph H. Jones on Friday at the dedication of the Sheriff Ralph H. Jones Training Center. Family members from left are Nick Scott, grandson, Mary Jones, Sheriff Jones' wife, and Patti Scott, daughter.

What used to be an old fire rescue and City Hall building in LaFayette, Ga., is now the Sheriff Ralph H. Jones Training Center - named after the county's longest-serving sheriff.

Since January the building at 12 Probasco St. has been used as a training facility by the Walker County Sheriff's Office. It was spruced up in time for a dedication ceremony Friday afternoon to honor its new function as a training center, something the sheriff's office didn't have before.

"We used other facilities," Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said. "We utilized some of the facilities at the state prison. We'll still do firearm training at the state prison."

Before becoming the training center, the building was used to store county rescue vehicles for several years until a new area opened last year. After that, the building went mostly unused for several months.

Wilson approached Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell about incorporating the vacant building into the sheriff's office.

Heiskell said she was "thrilled to death to help."

"When they suggested that, I jumped at the chance to provide it," she said. "I needed a use for it, and this is the highest and best use for this building."

The building, refurbished using Walker County inmate labor, will incorporate new technologies and innovative training methods as they become available to keep up with the ever-changing law enforcement field, said Sgt. Pat Cook, who is in charge of training.

"We need to stay ahead of that curve," he said. "We've already been approved by the state police academy to use this facility to run intermediate- and advanced-level training here."

The training center will be available to other counties' agencies, Cook said.

It also is equipped to host other activities for the sheriff's office, Wilson said.

"We could use it as a disaster facility if we have a disaster in the area and set up cots in our two bays," he said. "We can teach large classes in the bay area. It also serves as a conference center and a media center. It's going to be a multiuse building for the sheriff's office."

There are plans to run civilian training programs, CPR classes and firearm safety classes in the building, Cook said.

Members of Jones' family were at the dedication in his honor. Jones was Walker County sheriff from 1965 to 1984.

"He would be so proud, and I'm proud, too," his sister Louise Clements said. "He was always such a good brother, and I know he was a good sheriff."

Built around 1970, the building originally was a fire department and city hall for Linnwood before its charter dissolved into what is now LaFayette, Heiskell said.