Plans forming for new law center

Published 1:09 pm Thursday, November 22, 2007

By Staff
Jail, sheriff’s office are being considered
Senior Reporter
The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is looking to build a new law enforcement center with a jail, offices and a communications center, but just where and how has come under debate.
County Manager Paul Spruill has been directed by the county board to seek a consultant to come to the jail, the sheriff’s office and the county communications center to study its present state and to recommend what the county should do about the problems with the three areas.
The county board of commissioners and the county sheriff’s office realize this need and are working with one another toward the formative part of building a new law enforcement center.
Commissioner Al Klemm, Sheriff Alan Jordan and Chief Deputy Harry Meredith have put together a needs assessment for a new center.
It is a common goal between the commissioners and the sheriff’s office that “a new jail is for the people of Beaufort County, and not for the people in the jail,” Jordan said. The commissioners might “not agree among themselves about some things” concerning a new law enforcement center, where to build it and what departments it will be divided into, but they will eventually come up with “a good, solid decision,” he said.
Klemm, Jordan and Meredith comprised a “must have” list for a new center:
* a minimum 250 bed facility in the jail.
* expandable system if increased occupancy is needed in the jail.
* a minimum 50 parking spaces.
* video conferencing.
* access to inmates through the Internet.
* water and sewer.
* the facility must be compliant with federal rules on illegal immigrants.
* secure fencing around facility.
* a secure storage area on site.
* separate parking areas for sheriffs’ and citizens’ vehicles.
* a multipurpose training room in the sheriff’s office.
* a locker room with showers in the sheriff’s office.
* improved toilet facilities in the sheriff’s office.
* more office space.
McRoy said all of the commissioners are going “to find a solution that we all agree with.”
Of major importance right now is “a proposed site” for the entire law enforcement center, he said.
Whether it is built in Washington, or outside the city, McRoy said the commissioners and sheriff’s office “must agree on the functions of the law enforcement center.” For example, what will be the protocol be to transport suspects from the jail to and from the courthouse.
Cost is a factor also, McRoy said. He estimated a new jail, sheriff’s office and communications center will cost “around $25 million.”
The commissioners “agree on one thing” that there is a need for a new jail (and sheriff’s office and communications center), said Commissioner Jerry Langley.
However, Langley said a major question, and a major dividing point on the board is “where to build a new jail.”
He said he wants it to be built outside of Washington, either to the east or to the west.
Jordan, Meredith and Klemm spent two three-hour sessions just weeks ago looking at the present sheriff’s office, communications center and jail.
Jordan said the project “is moving in the right direction” and that the commissioners and the sheriff’s office are tackling this decision on action “together.”
Jordan and Meredith agree that commissioner Klemm’s diligence has come up with needed plans for the construction of a new law enforcement center.
Jordan is pleased with what good, solid work is occurring between Spruill, the county commissioners and the sheriff’s office.