By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer
(Walhalla, SC)——————Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw met with citizens of the city of Walhalla Tuesday night at the Walhalla Depot to present his plan for a new detention facility. The facility would be built in a location between the current law enforcement center and West View Cemetery.
“I wanted to have this meeting to talk with you. I’m kind of approaching this as the new neighbor at 300 South Church Street,” says Sheriff Crenshaw. “We moved in in January and we are looking at doing some new building.”
The facility that Sheriff Crenshaw proposes would be a two-story new housing pod, which would contain the part of the detention center that houses 192 beds, plus, a support building that would contain the laundry and kitchen areas.
“The Department of Corrections has been up and cited some deficiencies with the current jail,” according to Sheriff Crenshaw. “It is not current with today’s standards, and they have been to County Council and I think they have addressed it there.”
Oconee County Council had asked Sheriff Crenshaw upon his becoming Sheriff to come up with a plan for a new detention facility. The county bought some property on Pine Street, according to Sheriff Crenshaw, which he had the architects to take a look at. The architects informed the Sheriff that they could build about a 162 bed facility on the new property. However, there was no room to expand on that property, according to the Sheriff, at a cost of somewhere near $17 million dollars. The current detention facility houses 122 beds.
The Sheriff said he looked out towards the Five Forks area of Oconee County, which according to the Sheriff contained a lack of infrastructure.
“Cost was a big concern going forward,” according to Sheriff Crenshaw.
The original plan was to put the new detention facility on the left side of the current LEC building, but the right side presents a more viable option, according to the Sheriff, due partly to the fact that the jail administration is housed in the current Law Enforcement Center. Sheriff Crenshaw said that this plan would fit into his budget of $15.7 million dollars that he has to work with.
“The current facility has an outdoor rec yard,” according to the Sheriff. “That has always been a problem in year’s past. The new housing pod would have an interior rec yard. There will not be an exterior rec yard, but an interior rec yard. There will be an exterior wall with an opening at the top. This will be a two story building, about 25 feet tall. There will a rec yard on the lower level and upper level on each end. I think that will help us to control the noise and traffic.”
The current detention center would not be torn down, but would be used to house records for example. While some in the audience tonight agreed with the plan, others disagreed with the proposal from the Sheriff, citing declining property values, noise, and the close location and safety concerns with the detention center being close to their property.
Sheriff Crenshaw will be addressing the Walhalla City Council on April 19th at 5:30pm concerning his plans for a new detention facility. No final decision location for the new detention facility has been made. If the City votes down the plan, according to Sheriff Crenshaw, then a place outside the city limits of Walhalla would have to be looked at, which would cost more money than planned; including the fact that jail administration would have to be moved out.