Workers need more space, report says

AIKEN - Aiken County's employees are strapped for space, but county council members aren't ready to fork over nearly $48 million to fix that problem.

Instead, they are going to talk about the county's space needs some more - at another meeting that hasn't been scheduled.

Council members heard Tuesday night that on a scale of one to 10, with one being the worst, some of the county's facilities "have to be a two to four."

"You're definitely not a 10," said Karen Chinn, of Chinn Planning.

Hired to assess the county's space problems, Ms. Chinn said the health department and EMS are working too close for comfort. "I think these buildings have met their useful life," she said.

Council members are considering a proposal to remedy the problem by building a new county government complex - four new structures that would increase operating space to nearly 200,000 square feet.

But rough estimates from Ms. Chinn and the other firm that conducted the space study, McMillan Smith & Partners, estimate that those new facilities could cost nearly $48 million.

That amount is based on current construction costs in the area. It wasn't clear Tuesday whether that included the expense of site work on the 50 acres on Trolley Line Road that's being discussed as the site of the complex.

Council members heard the preliminary information in Ms. Chinn's report April 17 but received her full report last week.

It indicates the county's work force is likely to grow by 100 employees over the next 18 years, which would put more strain on available space.

On Tuesday night, the council accepted her report and decided to hold another meeting.

Councilman Scott Singer said that though the report was "very well done," he noted that "not all of John Q. Public is convinced that we need new facilities."

Chairman Ronnie Young said the report will be a "blueprint" for the board, which will have to find financing for the complex as it goes into budget discussions.

"That's problem No. 1," he said. "We've got to be realistic."

Reach Sandi Martin at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or sandi.martin@augustachronicle.com.