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Sheriff’s office to get new home

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County to buy, renovate old Thaxton buildings; sheriff’s office to relocate next year

By Chris Sardelli

As part of a $2.5 million plan, the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office will soon have a new home.
The sheriff’s office, which is running out of room at its Pageland Highway building and needs to comply with a new state requirement for evidence storage, will move its personnel to the five-building Thaxton complex on S.C. 9 within the next year.
The plans were announced Tuesday night as County Council unanimously approved the purchase of the property.
It will cost $1.8 million to buy the property and at least another $700,000 to retrofit the buildings, said County Administrator Steve Willis. The move, as well as the renovations, will be paid for using a portion of $3.5 million in general obligation bonds approved by council last month.
The project was kept under wraps until the county’s lawyers finalized the purchase agreement.
The tentative plan is to give administrative staff from the sheriff’s office one of the buildings, while the county 911 system would be housed in another. One of the larger buildings will be used to house evidence.
Willis said the current location for the sheriff’s office, in a building that is more than 30 years old, is not equipped to handle the needs of the office anymore.
The biggest reason for moving is to comply with the state’s Preservation of Evidence Act, he said.
“The evidence act is really what got this moving,” Willis said.
Sheriff Barry Faile and other local officials recently learned how the act, passed last year by the state Legislature, will impact how they operate. The evidence act requires the county to store evidence for several types of criminal cases in atmosphere-controlled conditions.
The act lists 24 different offenses in which evidence must be saved, including murder, rape, robbery and arson. It not only requires storage for evidence entered at trials, but anything collected at the scene of a crime. The evidence must be kept in case of new developments in the case or if a defendant requests a new trial.
Moving plans
Willis expects the complex’s current tenant to move out within the first two weeks of December.
He said a criminal justice consultant is working on design specifications for each of the buildings.
“The consultant is working with the sheriff, looking at the size of each building and the needs of each department and where they should be,” Willis said. “They are looking at things like, ‘Should dispatch go here?’ and ‘Will records go on the first floor?’”
After that, Chad Catledge of Lancaster’s Perception Builders will help the sheriff’s office develop a price estimate for construction. The public bid process should begin by mid-December and work could begin in late January 2011, Willis said.
Once the sheriff’s office moves, emergency management and fire service offices will move from the county’s historic jail into that building.
“There’s no timetable for that yet, but that is going to happen,” Willis said.
As for the detention center, Willis said it will stay where it is for the immediate future.
“In the long term, we’ll need to do something because of overcrowding there, but in the short term, there are no plans,” he said.

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Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at (803) 416-8416