Adding $1.5 million to the plan to construct a new Family Court building will save taxpayers money and account for inevitable growth, several York County Council members said during their regular meeting Monday evening.
Council members said the transfer would help provide enough courtroom space for a future backlog of cases to Family Court dockets, because of a South Carolina law passed earlier this year.
The law directs accused 17-year-old offenders to Family Court, instead of Circuit Court, where their cases have been prosecuted for years.
The law, to go into effect in 2019, could double the case load in Family Court, according to 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett.
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“The future jumped on us real quick,” said council member Robert Winkler.
The $21 million court building is planned on county property behind the Heckle Boulevard county office complex in Rock Hill, with a second entrance off West Main Street. The 75,000-square-foot building will need more office and courtroom space when it opens to handle the additional case load.
The new building was part of an $89.8 million York County bond package approved by voters last year. It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.
Councilman William “Bump” Roddey said it was a case of “having and not needing than needing and not having.”
Councilwoman Christi Cox requested that the council be prepared a full layout of the numbers in order to inform her constituents.
“The Family Court is our No. 1 priority,” said Cox. “But it concerns me that we’re exceeding the amount approved by our taxpayers. ... If the logistics are there, let’s put that down on paper and let them see that.”
Sheriff's hiring request OK’d
The council voted 6-1 Monday to approve Sheriff Bruce Bryant's request to hire six new deputies to bolster courtroom security.
The move comes almost three months after the council declined to approve the request after some council members said open deputy slots for other jobs should be cut if new jobs are added.
The cost of hiring six new deputies is about $220,000, plus the cost of benefits.
Bryant told the council two weeks ago that he needs 19 full-time deputies to provide court security, and that he has only 12. To account for security, he said he's had to take deputies from patrol and other duties to fill the mandated security roles.
Council member Bruce Henderson was the most outspoken proponent of the measure, pointing to recent terrorist incidents in New York City and Minnesota as reasons to why more security is needed.
“If we don't have deterrents, folks, all I can say is if something goes down, we’ll be the ones to blame,” said Henderson. “We need to find a way to make this happen than to be sorry afterwards to not prevent it.”
Council member Michael Johnson was the lone opponent, saying he disagreed only to say that the Sheriff's Office still had several open positions as of the last month. Adding more positions didn't make sense, he said.
“It's not a ‘Do you need it and should you fund it?’ question, but how do you hire these deputies and get them to take these jobs?” said Johnson. “Until we answer this question, I think we're putting the cart before the horse."
Limited space for trash
York County Public Works Director Eric Rekitt asked the council to consider using a temporary county-owned parcel to take care of demand following the announced closing of the York County East Collection & Recycling Center on S.C. 160 in Fort Mill.
Rekitt said the county could consider using a temporary space on Hensley Road in Fort Mill, which he said would cost about $16,000 to plan and prepare for use.
Meanwhile, he said, county officials would plan for a permanent site. The temporary site would be limited, said Rekitt, and service household trash, large and bulky trash and mixed recycling.
The lease for the current East center was not renewed because the property owner is selling the property.
Rekitt said the new buyer and current owner were receptive to plans to extend the use of the center for 1-2 months. The expected close date is Saturday.
Animal rights advocates speak out
A group of animal rights advocates came together to propose closing a loophole in a York County animal ordinance that allows dog owners to restrain their animals to a stationary object for an indefinite period of time.
The group of about 10 people, including a member with the Humane Society of York County, argued that the ordinance allows owners to keep their pets in substandard conditions.
The Humane Society’s Alicia Schwartz said that dogs in such situations are limited in their access to potable water and adequate shelter.
The group also asked the council to create a committee made up of members from York County Animal Control, veterinarians, citizens and rescue groups to establish minimum standards for dog breeders.