Carroll sheriff's office eyes old school for new space

Proposal would renovate building for headquarters

August 08, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A vacant school building in New Windsor could become the headquarters for the Carroll County sheriff's department.

Officials are reviewing a proposal for renovating the former New Windsor Middle School, a three-story brick building, into administrative offices for the sheriff. Estimates for restoring the 60,000-square-foot building are more than $2 million, said Ralph Green, director of the county's Department of General Services.

"A new building the size needed would cost way more to build than restoring an existing one," said Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr. "The lowest estimate we had to tear it down was more than $300,000. For that money, we can do a lot of renovating of a structurally sound building. This would be a good use."

The detention center and a few services, including the domestic violence and child abuse units, would remain at the Court Street offices in Westminster, but the administrative operations and several bureaus would move to the former school building on Route 75. The county has expanded the Westminster sheriff's facility three times since it was built in 1971, with the most recent addition completed less than five years ago.

Officials said they believe the jail will surpass its 287-bed capacity by 2006.

"There is no room left for any expansion," Green said. "The sheriff definitely needs bigger quarters."

Relocating the sheriff's administrative and patrol functions to the former school, about 10 miles away, would free up space at the detention center for a low-security area and for the work-release program. The department includes 71 deputies and civilian employees, with as many as 50 of them working in the building during weekday shifts.

Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning shares his basement office with his chief deputy. Janitor's closets have been converted into offices.

"There is not an inch of space left in this building," Tregoning said. "The only room we are not using for office space is the men's bathroom."

Tregoning has toured the former school several times and said the building has more than enough room to accommodate the needs of the department. The distance from Westminster would not be an inconvenience, he said.

"It needs extensive renovations, but the county is committed to doing those," Tregoning said. "We are particularly looking at the first floor. I am anticipating going to New Windsor, and I am certain we could coexist with any other agency that might share the building with us."

Each floor is about 8,000 square feet. Plans call for gutting the interior, installing an elevator, installing heating and air-conditioning units and replacing the windows and doors.

Initially, Tregoning said, he would need only the first floor. Green said the county could easily find a tenant for the remaining space.

"Once we start renovating, agencies will come out of the woodwork looking for space," Green said. "This is a great location for deputies who come from all over the county. We have also asked the State Highway [Administration] to allow us access to the new road."

The state announced plans last month to extend High Street, making it a short bypass behind the former school building that would allow traffic, particularly trucks, to avoid Main Street.

"New Windsor really will be a safer place," said Mayor Sam M. Pierce. "We will have the new road and the sheriff's offices. The police certainly will have a visible presence."

The first request for space in the building could come from the town, Pierce said. New Windsor is eyeing the building for its offices. Other possible uses include a library branch, a senior center and a community room, Pierce said.

A feasibility study on a new detention center is under way, Green said, and the results of it will determine whether the sheriff's relocation would be long-term or interim - for the next five years.

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