Vandals and vagrants might have a trickier time roaming the former Regency Mall property after concrete barriers and locked gates were put in place at the road entrances to the site, but fire and police authorities want to make sure they aren’t locked out, too.
After yellow swing arm gates were installed last Thursday at the vacant mall’s two entrances on Deans Bridge Road at Richmond Hill Road and on Gordon Highway at Thomas Lane, fire and police have not been able to locate keys that the property owner, Cardinal Management, said they provided to both departments last week.
The fire department was given the combination to a lockbox on the gate post at Deans Bridge Road, but the box doesn’t have the key needed to unlock the padlock, said Capt. Jim Griffin, who oversees the sheriff’s department’s south precinct that includes Regency Mall. Police never received a lockbox combination or a key, Griffin said.
Mark Axler, an executive with Cardinal Management, said the gates and barriers prevent people from using the parking lots for dumping trash and construction supplies. A tour of the building last June showed evidence of some vandalism, and copper was stolen from rooftop air conditioning units, he said.
“They should be able to get in if they need to get in,” Axler said. “I told the city I was doing it; and we did it.”
“It’s a fairly large area that could be a haven for criminal activity,” Griffin said.
This week, the deputies assigned to the beat that includes Regency Mall asked Griffin about a key. One had not yet made its way to the south precinct Thursday, he said.
“If they want us to patrol it, (the sheriff) would expect them to provide us with keys,” Griffin said.
Griffin said he planned to call the property owner Thursday to clear up confusion about the missing keys.
Cardinal Management was notified Sept. 6 that they had 10 days to provide an emergency access road to the site, said Augusta-Richmond County Fire Marshal Jack Womack. Rows of concrete barriers placed at several entranceways to the property at the end of June cut off vehicle access.
Patrolling will be impossible if they can’t gain key access to the swing gate. While police have checked up on the vacant property, officers are not expected to patrol the large area on foot, he said.
A minimum of four keys should be provided for each shift with a fifth spare key on hand, Womack said.
“If the key is out here, I haven’t seen one,” Griffin said. “This is something business owners have done for years.”
With cold weather months ahead, homeless people are expected to squat on the property, he said. Emergency personnel need to reach the area quickly for problems such as a fire, he said.