Richmond County sheriff’s Capt. Steven Strickland said improved visibility on a troublesome highway is one of the benefits that will come from the move.
Since 1997, the precinct has occupied a 10,000-square-foot former movie theater in Gordon Highway’s Southgate shopping center that falls within the sheriff office’s north precinct. Despite the $1 a year rent, water leaks and mold pushed the sheriff’s office to make the move to the 15,000-square-foot old Department of Juvenile Justice building in the 3400 block of Mike Padgett Highway.
The sheriff’s office purchased the building, which has been vacant for five years, from the Department of Juvenile Justice for $10 and the city offered to spend up to $250,000 for renovations.
Jim Helmly, a special project manager, said the project stayed under budget by using inmate labor and selling scrap metal from old jail cells.
Law enforcement from the south precinct began moving in the week of Feb. 17.
“The building is physically so much better and more solidly constructed than Southgate,” Strickland said of the facility constructed primarily of concrete and steel.
The building’s 32 jail cells are now office space for officers. With bright paint and new flooring, the offices were transformed from their gloomy past.
“In the old building it was actually like being in jail,” Strickland said of the Southgate building, which was windowless and often dark.
Helmly said the new facility has an “overall better design” that offers more offices, a larger muster room, a private conference room and space to house the special operations division of the sheriff’s office.
Even the little things, such as functional toilets and an evenly paved parking lot that doesn’t look like “Swiss cheese,” are putting smiles on faces.
Helmly said he expects the move to continue for several more weeks.
“We still have a few loose ends but pretty much everything is wrapped up,” he said.
Helmly said the department plans to extend the driveway to make leaving the precinct safer.
The entrance is now just past the intersection of Mike Padgett Highway and Marvin Griffin Road, which creates problems for vehicles turning left out of the facility. After paving is complete, motorists will be able to exit in a driveway shared with the Georgia Department of Driver Services office at a traffic signal.