New Berkeley County Sheriff's law enforcement office taking shape

December 27, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • The new headquarters for the law enforcement division of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office at 510 S. Raleigh St. in Martinsburg, W.Va., is set to open this spring. An officer memorial is planned in front of the building, which was formerly a Martin's grocery store.
Photo by Matthew Umstead

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The new headquarters for the law enforcement division of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office is projected to cost between $2.4 million and $2.6 million, officials said this month.

“The only big ticket item we have to go yet is our flooring,” said Deputy Berkeley County Administrator Alan J. Davis.

Expected to be completed this spring, the project’s current estimated cost of $99 per square foot would be about $200 less per square foot than the Berkeley County Judicial Center project next door, Davis said.

The per-square-foot cost does not factor in the county’s purchase of the property, Davis said. The Judicial Center at 380 W. South St. in Martinsburg was part of the former Blue Ridge Outlets retail shopping complex and parking lot that the county purchased for $3.8 million in 2002. The renovation and construction of the judicial complex cost about $20 million.

The former Martin’s grocery store building that is being renovated for the new sheriff’s law enforcement headquarters at 510 S. Raleigh St. was part of a vacant, 5.5-acre shopping plaza that the county purchased in 2007 for $3.1 million.

To contain costs for the public safety building project, the Berkeley County Council hired an architect and a clerk of the works to oversee the renovation and then added several part-time construction workers to the payroll for interior work. The county also has been acting as its own general contractor, which has been a substantial savings for the county, Davis said.

Additional savings have been netted through the county’s plan to recycle furnishings that Blue Ridge Community and Technical College left behind on the first floor of the county’s administration building, Davis said.

The college, which was leasing the space from the county, moved to a new campus this fall.

The county also plans to use furniture and cubicles that it obtained at no cost from the Internal Revenue Service building in 2007 for the public safety building. The furnishings were previously being stored in the former grocery until renovations began and have since been relocated to space the county has been renting.

While giving a tour of the building, Sheriff Kenneth M. Lemaster Jr. said the new building will be a “vast improvement” over the current headquarters at 802 Emmett Rousch Drive.

The new facility includes an observation room that will allow deputies to monitor interviews in two rooms from behind one-way glass, Lemaster said.

The current building only has one interview room and no observation glass, Lemaster said.

“We’ve done well with what we’ve had to work with,” Lemaster said.

When relocated, the department will have its own training room and no longer have to share space that is used as the county’s emergency operations center, according to Lemaster.

Deputies who need to shower after work will no longer have to share the one bathroom that is available now, Lemaster said. Deputies also will now have their own work stations and each patrol shift will have their own supply closet.

In the new facility, there are large rooms for exercise equipment for the deputies and members of the volunteer deputy reserves. Both are currently in two small spaces in a trailer, which is outside the current building and also is used by the sheriff’s K-9 officer, Lemaster said. A firearms training simulator room, which is now in another county building, also will be housed in the new facility.

“We’re jam packed and have been,” Lemaster said.
The back end of the new building has been retrofitted for a climate-controlled garage to house the department’s mobile command center and armored vehicle, which are sensitive to weather conditions, Lemaster said.

The department’s motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles and a trailer for the special operations team also are expected to be stored in the garage, Lemaster said. A separate two-bay area where deputies will unload people for processing and questioning also will be used for washing the police cruisers, Lemaster said.

Chemistry lab furnishings that were left behind by Blue Ridge CTC are expected to be recycled for two evidence processing labs, Lemaster said. The processing labs, along with a double-door locker system, is expected to help eliminate a “logistical nightmare” in tracking evidence, according to Lemaster.

The new facility’s evidence room itself will replace one that now is “uniquely packed,” Lemaster said smiling.

“The day we moved in (at Emmett Rousch Drive) it was full,” said Lemaster, who rose through the ranks in his law enforcement career of more than 30 years with the department.

While the new headquarters will address many currently challenging work conditions, Lemaster admitted that the facility’s location will make it harder for officers to get out of the City of Martinsburg to respond to calls in the county.

And while the new building is more convenient for deputies to get to court proceedings and other meetings at the judicial center, Lemaster said the new building is farther away from the county’s 911 center and the Animal Control division of the sheriff’s office.

Given the cost of the project to taxpayers, however, “this was a good way to go,” Lemaster said.

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