Choosing which of the improvements voters will consider most important in Tuesday’s York County bond referendum is next to impossible. They all are vital to providing adequate services to residents of the county for years to come and, in many respects, avoiding catastrophes that, quite literally, could be life threatening.
The bond package consists of five projects: building a new Family Court facility; expanding Moss Justice Center; expanding and renovating public works facilities, and renovating the Clover and Fort Mill magistrate’s offices.
Total estimated cost is $90 million, which would mean a tax increase of about $2.30 a month for the owner of a $100,000 home.
Some of the facilities addressed in this package were built 50 years ago. Since then, the county’s population has more than quadrupled, putting a severe strain on the ability of county officials to provide essential services to residents.
Take the Family Court complex for example. The complex has three courtrooms, but only two are actually inside the building. The third is housed in a double-wide mobile home with a floor that jiggles when people walk over it.
The building was supposed to be temporary, but it already has been in operation for seven years. Space there is too cramped to separate people involved in family disputes, including many that might involve domestic violence.
The Moss Justice Center was built in the 1980s – long before 9/11, long before officials got serious about security threats to judges, jurors, attorneys, county employees and visitors to the center. The entrance and lobby of the justice center are open to all. Anyone can enter at a variety of access points and walk past offices without encountering security guards or screening devices.
The parking deck at the justice center, where judges, jurors, lawyers and defendants all park next to each other, also has no security features.
The county’s recycling center also is a prefabricated structure – basically a big metal shed – that is only partially enclosed. Thousands of pounds of recyclables sit outdoors, waiting to be separated and sorted by hand by inmates from the county prison. The process is so labor-intensive and inefficient that the county outsources some of the work to other vendors.
County officials estimate they could make $80 a ton on recyclables if it they were processed on site with automated sorting equipment. Instead, they’re making $5 a ton.
This referendum is about more than simply upgrading buildings and making them more modern and comfortable. These outdated facilities adversely affect the ability of county employees and other public officials to do their jobs.
In addition to creating a secure lobby and parking deck at the Moss Justice Center on S.C. 5 near York, the upgrade will add two new courtrooms, a DNA laboratory and expanded office space for the sheriff, solicitor, public defender, probation, pardon and parole officers. This will provide space that is unavailable now for attorneys and law enforcement officers to talk with clients or question suspects.
It will allow the solicitor and public defender to more efficiently process cases. And it will help the solicitor recruit and keep a qualified staff.
In addition to expanding the Family Court in Rock Hill to replace the double-wide now being used for a courtroom, the new complex would feature additional courtrooms and added storage space for court files. The expanded center also would include a more secure holding facility that would eliminate the need to take prisoners down the hall to use public restrooms.
Additions to the Government Center-East on Heckle Boulevard in Rock Hill would include construction of two new buildings with ample security for new courtrooms and offices for family and magistrate courts. Significant improvements would be made for clerk of court offices, replacing outmoded space that now is rented by the county.
The Fort Mill magistrate’s office would be replaced and the Clover magistrate’s office would be upgraded so both are more secure and comply with federal laws that assure access to those with disabilities. Both of those offices were built in 1960.
In addition to automating the new recycling center in York, additions will include storage areas for supplies and equipment, as well as more maintenance bays for repairing county vehicles and equipment.
This is not an extravagant list of improvements. Planners set a limit on the cost of the package and set priorities based on greatest need.
Supporters stress that this referendum has nothing to do with renovations to the County Courthouse or construction of the new administration building in York, which already are under way. Those projects are funded by other sources.
Every item on this bond package is vital to the efficient functioning of the county. We urge residents to vote yes on Tuesday.