In recent months, the sheriff’s main administrative office staff moved from its mold-infested complex at 401 Walton Way to a new facility. Now its south precinct substation is responding to similar problems with a similar solution.
The substation, situated in a former movie theater in Gordon Highway’s Southgate shopping center, plans to move to the old Department of Juvenile Justice building on Mike Padgett Highway (Georgia Highway 56) in December.
“We were beginning to have problems out there that couldn’t be addressed,” Finance Director Mary Ann Gibbs said.
Although the rent on the building the south precinct has occupied since 1997 is $1 a year, conditions have deteriorated. The roof has started to leak, and shopping center owners were not interested in replacing it, Gibbs said.
“The potholes are disastrous,” said Capt. Scott Gay, who described some as being 3 feet wide.
Issues with an old air-conditioning unit had been brought up, too.
The sheriff’s office purchased the new building from the state Department of Juvenile Justice for only $10, and the city has offered to spend up to $250,000 for renovations.
“We’ll definitely come under budget,” said Jim Helmly, a special-project manager.
Inmate labor and the sale of plumbing scrap from cells will help keep costs low. Even though the projected move-in is two months away, officials are already listing the positives that will result from the move.
Gay said the building has been inspected “with a fine-tooth comb” to make sure leaks and mold will not be issues there.
“It’s sound,” he said of the building, which is primarily concrete and steel. “It was built when they built buildings very well.”
Although it’s been vacant for five years, Juvenile Justice maintained the building, leaving few problems.
“The biggest thing we’ve run across so far is running electricity to the cell areas,” Helmly said.
The 15,000-square-foot building, which is nearly twice the size of the current one, will allow the special operations team to be under the same roof and will move the substation into the south precinct.
The current Southgate location sits in the north precinct.
In addition to providing quick access to several major Augusta roads, police believe the new site will increase visibility on a troublesome highway.
“Highway 56 has been a problem with wrecks,” Helmly said. “I think it will slow people down.”
Crews are now working to convert the cells to offices for administration.
The sheriff’s office has also elected to keep most of the razor-wire fence at the building’s rear to provide additional security for spare vehicles parked there.