Two Richland County offices that interact with residents during tragedy have moved into shared space, allowing them to coordinate services more easily.
The coroner's office and victims advocates, who work for the sheriff's department, are housed at 1931 Pineview Drive, off Garners Ferry Road.
They moved there this fall and expect to host a ribbon-cutting after the new year, once the holidays are over and the last of renovations are done, Coroner Gary Watts said this week.
In addition to staffers, the offices are used by people who have been victimized or had family members die in a crime.
"Any time there's a violent death like that, we're going to have a victims advocate involved," Watts said.
His office also has a cadre of volunteer grief coordinators who visit with residents touched by the coroner's office.
Both offices moved out of leased space into property purchased and upfitted by the county. The cost was not available Tuesday.
The coroner's office had been on Taylor Street downtown, while the victims unit was just off Two Notch Road, near Columbia Place mall.
Chris Cowan, a spokesman for Sheriff Leon Lott, declined to comment on interaction between the two county agencies.
Watts said: "We'd talked about sharing space, and we looked at several different buildings. When this became available, it just sort of fit."
The morgue and autopsy suite remain at the county hospital, Palmetto Health Richland, while long-term freezers remain in the courthouse basement.
The 17,000-square-foot office houses boxes of death records dating to 1929.
They are being archived on computer discs, and Watts said the originals eventually will be stored at Iron Mountain, a records-management company with storage sites nationwide.
Some "cold case" investigations require records dating back 20 or 25 years, so Watts said he will maintain those records locally. People also request records for genealogical research.
The building has a higher level of security than previous offices, with special precautions to accommodate evidence that could be needed in a crime investigation. Personal effects are stored in a $15,000 set of about 20 lockers accessible only to a certified evidence technician.
The office on Taylor Street, where the coroner was housed for four years, did not offer that level of security, Watts said.