Last month, Richmond County deputies moved into a new substation. As we first told you, a leaky roof caused mold problems which prompted the Sheriff's Department to close the SouthGate Precinct. In February, they moved into a new building. Wednesday, the Sheriff's Department held an open house to give the community a look inside.
As WJBF News Channel 6's Dee Griffin found out, it offers a new place to work for deputies, while providing the beginning of a new direction for a couple of inmates.
Once an old, abandoned building, the property is now the newest weapon in fighting crime on the south side of Augusta. Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree says, “this is gonna house road patrol for south side, our crime suppression team, our special ops.”
The building was once the old youth development center. Now, rooms that were used for cells are individual offices. Inmates who walked these halls have been replaced by captains, lieutenants, deputies and administrators.
It's a long way from the former precinct which had potholes in the parking lot, leaky ceilings and mold.
“We didn't need folks out there working. The building was almost delabitated and too much money. They came out here and gave me a budget that they could stay within to renovate this building and I was very surprised the number was so low,” says former Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength.
The building was the vision of former Sheriff Ronnie Strength. Under his direction, the city was able to buy the new building at surplus for ten dollars. “The number they gave me they could renovate it for 250-thousand dollars which I thought was very low. But they stayed within that budget and they did it,” says Strength.
They did it, by using these two Richmond County inmates who are non-violent offenders. Chief Jailer Major Gene Johnson says, “both of them are carpenters. They were plumbers. Electricians. They can do it all.”
With their help, the Sheriff's department hopes this building will help cut down on a once growing problem of crime on the south side. “Crime takes a path of least resistance so we hope that criminals want to stay away from the southside,” explains Sheriff Roundtree.