Berkeley Co. sheriff 'very happy' with plans to convert former grocery store in headquarters

June 09, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • Lemaster

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Storage space for property seized or recovered by Berkeley County Sheriff's deputies was "overflowing" the day the agency's law-enforcement division moved into their current headquarters at 802 Emmett Rousch Drive about 20 years ago, Sheriff Kenneth Lemaster Jr. recalled Thursday.

Given the space limitations, not only for evidence storage, but the agency's growing roster of deputies, Lemaster said he is "very happy" with the Berkeley County Council's decision to move forward with a plan to convert the former Martin's grocery store along South Raleigh Street into the agency's new, larger headquarters.

"It will be more than adequate for the short term," Lemaster said of the new facility's size.

The sheriff said he expects the new headquarters will improve morale among more than 60 staff members and deputies who now share cramped working areas, where some employees sit inches apart from one another.

Some deputies are relegated to using little more than a countertop mounted on file cabinets, Lemaster said.

Meanwhile, residents have very little room to meet with deputies in the current building, and public fingerprinting services are unavailable when someone charged with a crime is being fingerprinted because the facilities are shared, he said.

Lemaster said he supported the council's efforts to minimize the burden of the improvements on taxpayers because of the economy. He said he is working with County Engineer Kimberly Shrader to develop a plan that could allow for future expansion in the new facility.

The Martin's building is more than 30,000 square feet and more accessible, Lemaster said.

The county bought the building in 2007 for $3.1 million and has been using it for storage.

Councilman Anthony J. "Tony" Petrucci said Thursday that he believes the sheriff's department will be the sole occupant at the Martin's property.

Petrucci said additional needs of the department, such as space for vehicle storage, is going to have to be done in steps, due to budget limitations.

Apart from the sheriff's department's future location, the council still must determine where to locate the Berkeley County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Managment, which also has space at 802 Emmett Rousch Drive.

The council voted Thursday to apply for federal grant money that could be used for the emergency management agency, but still must state in the grant application where it intends to locate the office.

Petrucci said a final use for the former CVS/pharmacy in the 5.5-acre Martin's grocery store shopping plaza in the 500 block of South Raleigh Street hasn't been decided. It is currently being used by the county's maintenance staff.

The relocation of the sheriff's department and the homeland security office will free up space for the county's 911 emergency dispatch center, which has no room for expansion and has the most pressing space needs among three agencies, officials have said.

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