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New Jefferson County facilities near completion

911 center, Sheriff's department, jail renovation cost $12 million

911 center, Sheriff's department, jail renovation cost $12 million

April 29, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- A new 911 center in Jefferson County, W.Va., has been "hardened" to protect it from natural disasters or intruders.

A new Jefferson County Sheriff's Department has several levels of security, including cameras and a gated area where deputies will be able to more securely move prisoners into their department headquarters.

A newly renovated former Jefferson County jail in Charles Town will help provide needed space for growing county government operations and help tell the story of Jefferson County's history.

The three new facilities, which cost more than $12 million, are entering their final stages of completion and are expected to open soon, county officials said.

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The cost of the facilities was not a factor in the county's tight finances that caused budget cuts recently, Manuel said. The facilities were paid for through a capital savings account that is separate from a budget account, Manuel said.

The new 911 center and sheriff's department are next to each other in the Bardane Industrial Park along Wiltshire Road about five miles north of Charles Town. The agencies were in need of larger and more efficient facilities, and two existing buildings were renovated to make way for them.

Officials are hoping the 911 center can be open by July or August.

The Jefferson County Commission at one time considered demolishing the former Jefferson County jail at the corner of George and Liberty streets, but the group Jefferson County Alliance to Save Our Heritage worked to save the structure.

Advocates of saving the jail said it should be preserved because of its architecture and because of a series of trials that were held in Charles Town in 1922 for miners involved in a southern West Virginia labor uprising known as the Battle of Blair Mountain.

The commission later decided against razing the jail and looked to use the facility to create needed county government office space.

The Jefferson County Circuit Clerk's Office and family court - both of which are across the street in another court facility - will be moved into the former jail, according to Commissioner Dale Manuel.

The newly renovated building will have enough space to separate parties involved in family court cases, which include issues like divorce and child custody, Manuel said.

Some bars from the old jail cells were left in place in the building so visitors can get a feel for the building's previous use and some historical interpretation will be offered to help recount the county's history, Manuel said.

"That's very important. We don't want to lose the history of Jefferson County," said Manuel, adding that the jail renovation exceeded $2 million.

Sheriff's department

The sheriff's department is in the Mason Building along Washington Street, a short distance from the jail. It's hard for deputies to have enough space in the building to do their office work, and Jefferson County Sheriff Everett Boober does not like the way deputies have to bring prisoners into the department.

Deputies walk prisoners across a parking lot, then down a set of stairs into the building.

In the new sheriff's department, deputies will bring prisoners into a gated "sally port" that offers a more secure way to transport prisoners into the building, Boober said.

The new department, which cost about $2.5 million, also offers a central work area for deputies that is free from the disruptions officers face in the old facility, Boober said. The work area also has computer stations for deputies, he said.

"The whole environment is an improvement by 100 percent," Boober said.

The sheriff's department plans to move into the new building about May 12.

911 center

The new 911 center is in a former arts building that had mirrors lining part of the interior for a dance studio. Mirrors had to be removed from the building to make way for the new center, Manuel said.

To protect it from attack or natural disaster, special windows and doors that can resist explosions or bullets were installed, Commissioner Rusty Morgan said. The center also has a backup electrical supply.

Also, in the event of an incident like an explosion, the facility has a steel-reinforced roof to protect it from collapsing on workers and sensitive equipment inside, Morgan said.

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