The York County Council and public safety officials generally agree on the county’s most pressing capital concern – expansion of Moss Justice Center, including a new booking facility in the eastern end of the county.
They just aren’t sure what the price tag will be, and they likely won’t know for several more months.
Capital needs took up most of the County Council’s time during a March 25 special called meeting and workshop. Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett and York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant spoke on the need for more room for jail cells, booking areas, courtrooms and space for lawyers to work.
“We are full to capacity,” Brackett said. “The problem is, we continue to grow and our case load continues to grow.”
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Population growth has Brackett’s staff “wedged into closets” now, he said.
Expanding the Moss Justice Center in York – home to the county’s courts, sheriff’s office and jail – and opening a booking facility in the Fort Mill or Rock Hill area would create more room, Brackett said.
Brackett needs more staff, he said, but doesn’t have any place for them to work. For about four years, he has rented office space for some of his staff members.
“I can’t hire them if I don’t have anywhere for them to sit,” he said.
The majority of the county’s criminal cases are misdemeanors, Bryant said, and up to three-fourths come from the population centers of Fort Mill and Rock Hill. By serving those cases at a booking facility on the eastern end of the county, officers could spend more time at their jobs, rather than driving back and forth to York, he said.
“If you’re realistic, we’re transporting and keeping officers on the road for two hours to bring (suspects) from Carowinds Boulevard” in Fort Mill Township, Bryant said.
The county issues 1,200 papers and 1,000 warrants a month, with “the majority of those” coming from Fort Mill and Rock Hill, he said. Last year, there were 8,900 jail bookings, with 6,000 to 7,000 coming from those areas. Many would be served entirely by a new 72-hour booking facility.
“It can’t do anything but save money,” Bryant said.
Council members agreed that working to create room for court and law enforcement functions should top other capital needs.
“This is seven years past due as it is,” Chairman Britt Blackwell said, referring to the expansion’s being discussed in 2006 when the county was selling bonds to pay for other projects.
Requests for design consultants for an expansion of Moss Justice and a new booking facility will go out within 10 days, interim county manager Anna Moore said. It likely will be at least fall before a cost estimate is presented to the council.
York County has $53.2 million in general obligation bond debt, leaving $37.2 million in bonds the county could sell to raise money for the project without being required to ask voters to approve.
Councilman Chad Williams, whose district includes part of Fort Mill, agreed with the need for more space for the criminal courts and law enforcement. He just wants to make sure the council is looking at capital needs and not “capital wants,” he said.
“I don’t want to spend $37 million in general obligation bonds if we can get it at $28 million,” he said. “On the other hand, I don’t want to cap it. I want to make sure we’re talking about needs.”
Several existing projects could cut into the available county debt, including renovations at the old County Courthouse that are expected to cost more than their 2008 projections of $4.9 million and a recycling center project with bids coming in $1.6 million to $1.8 million higher than projected.