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Commissioners balk at accepting new ECSO headquarters
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The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office deputies and staff have moved back into their renovated building — but no one is ready to hand over a certificate saying the administrative complex.

Problems that plagued the old building and led to its replacement have begun cropping up in the brand-new edifice, county commissioners said.

“They’ve already had the roof patched once,” Commissioner Reggie Loper said. “That’s the reason we built a new jail.”

With reports of a leaky roof, commissioners balked at approving a certificate of substantial completion for the sheriff’s office.

“We don’t need to do anything,” Loper said. “If the roof is leaking, that’s the worst thing that can happen.”

County community relations director Adam Kobek said there are punch list items left to accomplish, and the county holds about $173,000 in retainage. It would pay about $98,000 if commissioners approved the substantial completion certificate. There also is a $74,000 bond on the sheriff’s office site.

The sheriff’s office had relocated to the county annex on Highway 119, less than a mile away from its usual headquarters, while the building was torn down and rebuilt. The sheriff’s office moved back into its redone digs Dec. 15. A temporary certificate of occupancy was issued Dec. 1, and a permanent certificate was issued Dec. 12.

The sheriff’s office moved to the annex in late March. The jail opened in March and work on the new facility began in February 2013. The jail itself was built for $14.5 million, and the 56,000 square foot facility replaced an undersized and outdated building that was 35,000 square feet.

The new sheriff’s office administrative building is about 21,198 square feet at an overall cost of approximately $2 million.

Constant leaks in the roofs in the old building led to a continual parade of problems, including issues with the ceiling and windows. There also was mold in the old sheriff’s complex.

“I didn’t want to end up in the same position we were in in the past,” said Commissioner Vera Jones.

Jones said Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie told her that the roof was leaking and there were locks missing from doors, adding the sheriff was not willing for the certificate of substantial completion to be signed.

“He’s the one living with that building every day,” she said.

Kobek told commissioners he was not aware of the problems at the new sheriff’s office before bringing the certificate of substantial completion for the board to discuss.

“If I knew (Sheriff McDuffie) did not feel comfortable, I would not have brought that to you,” he said.

Commissioners tabled the item until their Jan. 20 meeting.

“The only way to make anyone responsible is to hold their money,” Jones said.