Study says Florence County needs new courthouse

Florence County Council commissioned a study on the 40-year-old Florence City County Complex a few months ago and the results are revealing the complex is old, outdated and needs major repairs and upgrades.

"Your facilities in this building are among the most overcrowded and among the most operationally ineffective that we've seen in the United States," said Mike Thomas with Justice Planning Associates.

Stevens & Wilkinson, Justice Planning Associates and Goforth Brown and Associates conducted the study for council.

"Your mechanical systems are at the end of their useful life. Your electrical system is passed the end of its useful life. You don't have handicap toilets and that's not appropriate. You have to have a sprinkler system. A fire in this building could be very, very bad. So you urgently need a fire suppression system in this building," Thomas explained.

There's also asbestos in the building that needs to be removed.

The repairs could cost the county roughly $17 million.

"Obviously we heard some things today that we didn't expect to hear and we would have rather maybe we didn't hear, but the fact is now they have educated us on the needs of this building and what he have to to to move forward," said Jason Springs, Florence County Council.

The study also found there aren't enough courtrooms and there are security issues.

"You're going to have to move the courts out of this building at some point and frankly the clock is ticking before something serious happens in here," said Thomas.

The study recommends a new judicial center altogether with at least six courtrooms to house civil, criminal and family court proceedings.

A new courthouse could cost between $36 to $50 million, according to the study.

"It's a real dilemma, but something has to be done," said Waymon Mumford , Florence County Council.

Council says the findings are alarming, but right now the county just can't afford to invest in a new judicial center.

"We gone have to continue all of our operations in this building because of funding. It takes a lot of money to a new judicial building even though its something that we really need," Mumford explained.

The county will spend some money on minor renovations and hope to have funding in place in the next five years to build a new courthouse.