June 22, 2003
Making sense of the most recent changes at the Three I Corp., the safety training center on Sand Flat Road, is difficult. Let us just say that the center's future today as an independent facility is somewhat cloudy because the city of Meridian has swooped down and scooped it up.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, the city opted to cancel the center's lease and take back full control of the facilities. This action came only months after Meridian Fire Chief H.C. "Bunky" Partridge had given up his dual roles as both the center's director and city fire chief in an apparent settlement of an ethics complaint.
Three I's current managers said very clearly they believe the city's decision to terminate their lease and take back control was designed to put Partridge back in charge.
In a news story published last week in The Meridian Star, Partridge admitted that he had difficulty accepting a lesser role in Three I, once even threatening in a pique of temper to "tear Three I down." He may yet succeed; as it stands now, he is likely to inherit the facility's management again.
With the city of Meridian controlling the purse strings, it remains to be seen whether Lauderdale County law enforcement agencies and emergency personnel from other places will continue to use the facility on Sand Flat Road. Already, Three I, a non-profit organization designed to prepare firefighters, law officers and other to handle disasters or emergency situations, is looking for new space.
If Three I was an experiment in intergovernmental relations, in cooperative training of emergency personnel, it seems to have failed. If Three I was created just to get more federal money into Meridian, it seems to have succeeded, but at the price of good relations among all interested parties.