Aiken breaks ground on new Public Safety headquarters building

In the shadow of the apartment complex where Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson lost his life in the line of duty, Aiken police, elected officials and residents broke ground Sunday on a new headquarters for its Public Safety Department.

 

The city is repurposing an old Food Lion grocery store at 843 Beaufort St. and will name it for retired Chief J. Carrol Busbee, who pioneered the combination police-fire concept in Aiken and became its first leader in 1970.

Among the speakers Sunday was City Councilwoman Gail Diggs, who represents District 1, where the new building will be located, and where Richardson was killed at the Pace’s Run apartment complex a few hundred yards away.

From a neighbor’s house, she heard the gunshots that killed Richardson about a month after she was elected in November 2011.

“I’ll never forget that night,” Diggs said. “I still cry when I think about that night. And this is nothing new for this district. … We’ve had over 400 incidents in the last two years here alone.”

The most recent fatal shooting at Pace’s Run was on Oct. 1, when a Ward, S.C., man was gunned down. Two men have been charged in his death.

But with a stronger police presence and community cooperation, better days are ahead, Diggs said.

“We refuse to let anybody run us out of our neighborhood,” she said to applause.

The headquarters is much more than a building – it’s “a godsend,” she said.

“This building is about change – change of attitude for us, for our neighbors, and hope for people,” she said. “This means so much for us, and we know the choice of this location was not an accident. The residents of this neighborhood have been praying for a solution.”

Mayor Rick Osbon also mentioned Richardson and Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers, who was killed just a few months after Richardson and only about 2 miles from where he fell.

“I want to say this to the Rogers and Richardson families: This building will be something that will honor the sacrifice of Sandy and Scotty, and it will be something that we’ll be proud of,” he said.

The city had struggled to find the money to build a new station from the ground up, but it found a way to get it done by switching to the idea of repurposing the old supermarket, he said.

“This represents the best of Aiken,” Osbon said of the cooperation it took among public safety, council and District 1 residents.

Busbee, who began fighting fires in Aiken as a volunteer in 1957, when he was honorably discharged from the Navy after serving in the Korean War, also talked about what the new headquarters will mean for the people who live closest to it.

“It takes doing things together, and for each other, that you make it through life,” he said. “Today, we’ve reached a milestone that will allow us to better serve this community.”

about the new Public Safety Headquarters

Project Budget: $10.8 million

Developer: Southeastern Development Co.

Completion and dedication: Planned for April 2019.

Square footage: Increase of 21,000 square feet, from 25,700 in the current building to 46,700

Site: Increase of 9.4 acres, going from 1.6 acres to 11

Parking: New headquarters will have 236 spaces, an increase of 164

The fire station bays are wider, and there will be one additional bay for a total of four in the new headquarters.

Court areas: The new headquarters will include a multi-use courtroom, court offices and a solicitor’s office.

Facility Improvements: 250 percent increase in evidence storage, a new and larger armory, an updated 911/dispatch area, multi-use space for team training and public meetings, upgraded facility security and an upgraded emergency operation center.

Improved energy efficiency: New facility will have energy-efficient LED lights and have new energy-efficient HVAC units.

 

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