Douglas looks at driving course |

Douglas looks at driving course

by Merrie Leininger

A group of Douglas County people who want to build a drivers’ training course said they will not be deterred by a similar project being built in Washoe County.

The group addressed Douglas County airport users and business people Wednesday at the Minden-Tahoe Airport joint planning conference.

The course will be used to train law enforcement officers, school bus drivers, ambulance personnel and even student drivers, said Lt. Mike Biaggini of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Biaggini also said the group is planning a state-of-the art classroom building on the same site, land owned by Douglas County at the airport. The classrooms, with multi-technology capability, would be open to the community.

Of course, all of this is just in the planning stages.

“We have a lot of good ideas, but zero dollars,” Biaggini said.

Reno already has raised $16 million for its training course but doesn’t have a place to build it, Biaggini said. He also said the police department doesn’t plan on letting others use the facility once it is built.

However, Biaggini said, Douglas County could cash in on the lack of a training course anywhere else in the state.

Katie Durbin of Western Nevada Community College said police academy students have used this area for their vehicle training for at least 10 years.

DCSO Sgt. Jim Richardson said the greatest liability factor facing law enforcement is exposing officers to high-speed car chases without proper training.

Richardson said the department has been training on a closed runway for about 14 years now, but a track that can simulate many weather and lighting situations would greatly improve the deputies’ skills.

Richardson also said the high school requires driver’s education students to only have 3-1/2 hours behind the wheel. He said the seniors’ academy every year gets the best response out of the driving segment of the program.

Jerry Barbee of the WNCC police academy said the group was looking into funding from the Reynolds Foundation of Las Vegas.

He said the foundation requires the group to come up with 20 percent of the amount needed to be put into an account. The interest from that money will be used for daily operating costs once the facility is opened.

Scott Johnston of Nevada Peace Officers Standard and Training in Carson City said the group has formed several steering committees which are putting together conceptual plans for the track, the classrooms and the building. They are also working on a written mission statement and organizing many of the groups who have volunteered labor or materials to build the track.

“I learned something about the public safety project. I didn’t know about the grandeur of the project,” said conference participant Linda Mae Draper of Nevada International Flight and Transportation Industries.

Some members of the airport advisory committee are planning a presentation to community organizations about future development plans for the airport.