Originally created 08/14/04

Law center conundrum

Just how bad a shape is the Richmond County Law Enforcement Center in? The wall system, especially in the administrative wing of the building, couldn't be much worse. The wall studs are rusted out, and mold, which can be a health hazard, abounds.

The law center, built in the mid-1980s, has been plagued with leaks and other problems from the start. Every rainstorm is a disaster, with leaks springing over much of the structure, including through light sockets over detectives' desks. Tarps or plastic have to be thrown over many of the desks during rainstorms to protect them from the leakage.

Although millions already have been spent to fix shoddy construction and substandard locks and make other repairs, millions more may have to be spent to get the place in shape, and it still may not be enough.

Not all the news is bad, however. "The structure of the building is cast-in-place concrete," says Assistant Public Works Director Rick Acree. "At present it appears to be in good shape."

Mayor Bob Young, City Attorney Stephen Shepard, Sheriff Ronnie Strength and other officials met with city commissioners earlier this week to figure out what needs to be done. For starters, they authorized Acree to get with a structural engineer in order to gauge as accurately as possible the extent and severity of the damages caused by leakages and rotting.

It is heartening to see city and county officials from different segments of the local government coming together to deal with a major problem. There's no doubt the law center has been a headache for many years and that the time is at hand to start making some crucial decisions.

Should the city continue making costly repairs at the 20-year-old facility? Or would that just be pouring good money after bad? Commissioners Tommy Boyles and Bobby Hankerson think it might be best to build a new facility next to the jail on Phinizy Road.

We do not know the answers to these questions yet, but we look forward to the studies and discussions that will go into the decision-making process before this matter is finally resolved - as it must be.


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