July 16, 2014

Blackwell: Riverwalk area judicial site ‘is dead’

York County will not build a judicial complex with up to 60 jail cells in the Riverwalk area off Cherry Road, says County Council chairman Britt Blackwell.

York County will not build a judicial complex with up to 60 jail cells in the Riverwalk area off Cherry Road, says County Council chairman Britt Blackwell.

Blackwell made the decision Wednesday after listening to consultants detail the projected county needs for the next 20 years and the possibility of selling bonds to finance those projects.

About 30 Riverwalk residents listened to the presentation, wondering if the council would address their objections.

“The Riverwalk site is dead,” Blackwell said. “We have heard the public clearly.”

Councilman Bump Roddey said, “Riverwalk would sink this whole referendum.”

The need for an eastern judicial center which could have rooms for family court, DUI court and magistrate court, space for York County sheriff’s deputies, county solicitors and public defenders – as well as space to hold those arrested for up to 48 hours – has not gone away, Blackwell said.

Moving forward with the judicial center will take a collaborative effort among York County, Rock Hill and Fort Mill, Blackwell said.

Riverwalk resident Tina Calhoun said she was pleased with the decision. She also said she will support a referendum for county projects. “Growth brings projects,” she said.

The council will concentrate its efforts on three projects, Blackwell said:

• Improvements to the Moss Justice Center, which would add security, more courtrooms and more parking to the York complex.
• A new county office where most of the county’s functions would be consolidated at one site. Two sites are being considered – one adjacent to the Moss center and one next to the York Electric Cooperative on Alexander Love Highway.
• The eastern judicial center at a yet-to-be-determined site.

The county is considering a bond referendum to finance at least one-half of the projected cost of the new projects. The council will hold a second reading on a referendum at Monday’s meeting. The anticipated amount of the referendum is between $60 million and $65 million.

The cost of the three projects was not clear Wednesday night.

Earlier in the meeting, consultants from Boomerang Design discussed two construction options:

• $108 million for improvements at the Moss Justice Center, a new sheriff’s and magistrate office in Clover and Fort Mill, a new administrative building in York, renovation and expansion of the county’s Public Works facility in York, and new building at the county complex on Heckle Boulevard in Rock Hill.
• $117.3 million for the above projects, dropping the Fort Mill sheriff’s and magistrate office and replacing it with the eastern justice center.

Sheriff Bruce Bryant, 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett and Clerk of Court David Hamilton made impassioned speeches Wednesday in support of all the law enforcement and judicial projects. They noted the need has only increased since voters rejected the last countywide bond referendum by a 2-to-1 margin in 2006. At the time, the county wanted to borrow $75 million to build or improve the county jail, court facilities, libraries, customer service centers, a recycling center and cultural venues.

Bryant said the Riverwalk facility was “killed by an outcry from a small community. People didn’t realize what would go there. I am disappointed that (the eastern justice center) has been put off.”

Bryant said the eastern judicial center would have “a booking facility, not a jail, not a prison, not a permanent detention facility.” Those held at the facility would be there for a maximum of 48 hours. If they failed to make bond they would be transferred to the Moss center.

Bryant said it was also likely that violent offenders would be directly taken to Moss and not an eastern facility.

The booking facility would be on the first floor and offices and courtrooms on higher floors, he said.

Bryant said people driving past the facility would not see “chain link or concertina wire, machine gun nests or striped uniforms.”

Blackwell said he was also disappointed that the Riverwalk site was dead because he said it had great economic development potential and also could have housed a federal courthouse.

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