Sheriff’s deputies may be part of a new public safety complex at a Decker Boulevard strip mall once Richland County buys and renovates it.
Sheriff Leon Lott endorsed a county proposal to relocate his Region 2 headquarters to the site, along with officers now working at three other locations, Deputy Chief Steve Birnie said last week.
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All told, the consolidation could shift about 100 of the county’s 700 deputies and support staff to Decker Mall, the mostly vacant strip mall the county is purchasing for $2 million.
Last week, a committee of Richland County Council discussed the move, part of an attempt to bring new life — and customers — to the two-mile strip of Decker Boulevard that has declined over the past 20 years.
Councilman Jim Manning took the idea to Lott.
Then county administrators added in a proposal to relocate central court from 1400 Huger St., where magistrates preside over traffic cases. That piece of property, a 1950s structure with a “honeycomb” brick façade, could then go on the market, officials said.
The uses identified so far would fill about 60 percent of the available space, administrator Milton Pope said.
The proposal goes to County Council on June 7.
Chief Magistrate Donald Simons likes the idea.
“Right now we have inadequate space,” said Simons, who noted the fire marshal established occupancy at 80 people in the courtroom last year, when heavy dockets might bring 150 folks into the building. “The location on Decker Boulevard has better access and there’s better parking.”
The Sheriff’s Department region headquarters is located in the nearby Columbia Place mall now. Efforts to reach a spokesman there were unsuccessful.
Councilman Seth Rose said moving the sheriff’s fugitive team from the top floor of the courthouse would free up “significant” space there — the need that began the discussion five years ago about the need for more county offices.
Rose said having deputies in the same building where traffic court is held would be more efficient. “They could walk across the hall, potentially, to court,” Rose said.
He also suggested extra space could be used for storing evidence for the Sheriff’s Department and coroner’s office.
“At first blush,” Rose said, “it looks like it would be an excellent move.”