The various arms of the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office are now under one roof — and just as happy as Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie appears to be for that, he’s also happy to have them under a roof and in a building that won’t be as much of a problem.
“We have a lot better building than what we had before,” McDuffie said.
The sheriff and his staff showed off their new home, built on top of their old digs, during an open house Sunday. The sheriff, his deputies and staff moved back in during December, after spending several months in temporary offices at the old county annex.
“This has been a long, two-and-a-half year project,” the sheriff said.
The new sheriff’s office was designed with three specific items in mind, McDuffie said. He wanted a building that was pleasing to the eye for passers-by, was energy-efficient and also could be expanded in later years, without a burdensome cost.
“I think we succeeded in all three of those,” he said. “The three things we were looking for were the cosmetics and people seeing a nice building and not thinking they were looking at a prison, the environment and to try to stay as green as possible and design a building we don’t have to spend a ton of money for expansion and growth. We can expand 14 offices and not touch the envelope of the building.”
McDuffie is happy to have a new and more spacious evidence room, instead of having to secure evidence in exterior storage units.
“Our other evidence room was way, way too small,” he said. “Some of it has to be stored for a lifetime, some of it for 50 years, some of it for two years. We had to get storage facilities outside. Now we’re able to put it all in house in one secure facility. It’s all here under one roof.”
Among the new office’s features are a large training room and a conference room that is being used frequently, the sheriff pointed out.
“There’s been somebody in that conference room just about every other day,” McDuffie said. “We have a nice-sized training room. We can offer training for other agencies around here.”
The sheriff’s office had help in getting the grounds and landscaping done, with Sheriff McDuffie thanking Harry Capwell for his assistance, and the building itself cost just more than $2.1 million, funded by the special purpose local option sales tax.
“I’ve got to thank the citizens of the county,” county commission Chairman Wendall Kessler said, “because without the passage of the SPLOST funds — that penny built this — without the citizens, it wouldn’t be here today. Citizens entrust with their money. That’s something not any of us take lightly. There are a lot of worthwhile things out there to spend money for.”
The chairman also pointed out the building has a suite dedicated for Internet and online investigations. The ECSO criminal investigation department has a new room to itself, replacing the cramped quarters that also had leaky windows.
“The investigation suite provides the sheriff with the necessary tools to keep our streets and our community safe,” Kessler said. “Buildings cost money. But our greatest assets are these law enforcement officers, who can now call this facility home.”
The current building, 21,198 square feet, replaces a building that was nearly 21 years old and was plagued with a lengthy list of ills, mostly stemming from a leaky roof. It also houses all the sheriff’s office’s different agencies, including the humane enforcement, traffic enforcement and drug suppression units.
“We can get rid of the trailers out back now,” McDuffie said.
The hours at the sheriff’s office remain the same, with the administrative complex open 10 hours a day from Monday-Thursday. The sheriff’s office personnel left their old building behind in March 2014 and moved back to a new building in mid-December.
“There were a lot of things that had to be deleted and omitted that we couldn’t afford we would have loved to have had,” McDuffie said. “I think we did a lot of hard work to get the project where it’s at, and I’m ecstatic. I think everybody here is proud of what we’ve got.”