County moves toward CPST-funded evidence facility

The Laurens County Council has has taken the first steps toward plans for a new county law enforcement center that will begin with a much-needed evidence storage facility.

Funding for the $1,946,250 evidence facility was obtained with the passage of the Capital Project Sales Tax referendum in November’s General Election, and County Public Works Director Dale Satterfield said construction on it could begin by late fall of this year. In order to get started on the project earlier, the county can borrow money from the industry-generated “fee-in-lieu-of-taxes (FILOT) Special Projects Fund, which would be repaid as money is generated from the CPST, a 1-cent sales tax that is to be imposed beginning later this year.

At last week’s meeting of county council, council members approved Satterfield’s request to hire the architectural design firm of Stewart, Newell and Stumbo of Gastonia, North Carolina to design the evidence storage facility.

The design is to include expansion possibilities for a proposed law enforcement center. The entire complex is to be located near the Johnson Detention Center on Templeton Road in Laurens.

After construction of the evidence storage facility, council will have to determine how or if it will fund a new law enforcement center.

“It has to be decided when that will take place,” Satterfield said of the law enforcement center. “It’s part of the overall master plan to construct and build the evidence facility now and design it in such a way to add the law enforcement center.”

The larger complex would also house the county’s E-911 operations center, which is now located in the former county library on South Harper Street. That location sits in a flood plain and also next to railroad tracks that sometimes are used to transport hazardous materials through the area.

The current law enforcement center and evidence storage facility is located in downtown Laurens on West Main Street. The 1970s-era building has structural problems and has been outgrown by the LCSO. The old county jail, which is plagued by leaky ceilings and other structural problems, currently houses evidence from LCSO investigations and tried cases.

Laurens County Sheriff Don Reynolds campaigned for a new evidence facility as an urgent necessity due to stored evidence being exposed to the elements as projects were being considered for the CPST. It was among 16 selected to be funded by the CPST and also among the first to be tackled by project managers and the county administration.

“I look forward to continuing a strong working relationship with Sheriff Reynolds and his department to bring justice to the citizens of Laurens County,” said 8th Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo. “This new evidence room is a step in the right direction in bringing that justice.”

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