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KCC work session focuses on library, jail

Posted: November 7, 2013 5:41 p.m.
Updated: November 8, 2013 5:00 a.m.

A new library building; an expanded detention center. Those were two points of focus at a special Kershaw County Council work session Tuesday night.

Kershaw County Library Director Amy Schofield discussed the way the library serves the more rural parts of the county and opportunities for the library to provide a greater service to the county’s rural areas.

“The library in Bethune is a 1,250-square-foot building, much beloved by the community and well-used by the people in the area,” Schofield said, adding that the library’s bookmobile provides more programs and resources for children in rural areas.

Schofield said the bookmobile seeks to serve the northern area of the county, but due to being “spread so thin” with staff and resources and having such a great need, it can only make it out there once a month or so.

“I want to stress why libraries should be supported,” she said -- that they positively affect community members especially in rural areas.

Schofield said it could be difficult to provide service to everyone because the county’s libraries are so spread out.

“Libraries improve quality of life,” she said, explaining how adult programs offer classes and sessions like computer literacy to help demographics of people that are not computer literate.

Schofield said the library is the center of a community, as it offers positive free services and an essential work space for individuals who have no other alternatives.

“The library gives people an opportunity for self-sufficiency,” Schofield said.

She said that for people who don’t have Internet access or a computer at home, the library is a place to apply for jobs, government services, unemployment, taxes, healthcare services and more.

County Administrator Vic Carpenter agreed with Schofield that, as the state has taken away funding from job centers over the last several years, the library’s computers have become a hub for people who are seeking jobs and other resources.

Schofield said the library also offers activities and programming for children, such as story time, and early literacy programming, especially with the bookmobile, encouraging summer reading with outreach programs.

“Libraries are essential,” Schofield said.

According to Schofield, the main branch in Camden serves 32,000, or 48 percent, of county residents. Elgin serves 18,000 (29 percent) and Bethune 3,700 (6 percent), leaving 13 percent of the county “which falls outside of the scope” of these libraries -- “outside of the range of library service.”

Schofield said the Kershaw County School District (KCSD) offered property at North Central Middle School.

“There’s space in the parking lot,” she said. “The school district would donate land, but the county would need to come up with some type of small building.”

In response to a question from Council Vice Chair Stephen Smoak, Schofield said the current Bethune library is owned by the town of Bethune and that the county pays its expenses.

Schofield said the North Central area is the point of much traffic due to the fact that the middle and high schools are there and a recycling center is nearby.

Councilman Tom Gardner asked if the potential new site at North Central would replace the existing Bethune library.

Schofield said no; that the library is looking to expand services and serve that area more completely.

In regards to the facility itself, Schofield said she doesn’t have a specific building yet though she has reached out to the school district and KCSD CFO Donnie Wilson is helping her look.

 “Essentially what we’re talking about is one of those portable classroom buildings you see at schools and the price is roughly $5,000 total for the building for moving it for setting it up,” Carpenter said. “I think that’s maybe the range we’re looking for.”

Schofield estimated recurring operating costs -- including utilities, computers, printers, copiers, switches and routers -- to be approximately $27,470.

Carpenter said the county is purchasing houses near the airport Woodward Field in east Camden and that one of those sites could by suitable.

Schofield said she is “asking the county to consider (the idea for a new library) for the next budget year.”

Councilman Jimmy Jones said that he thought it was a “great” idea.

Smoak agreed and appreciated the library’s looking for a way to serve more people in the county.

Moving on to the detention center, Carpenter said a facilities study presented earlier this year named it the No. 1 concern. Further review of the detention center, specifically, was performed and gave a more in depth study with details.

“Essentially, we are talking a little over $1 million of needs at the detention center. It’s an 11 year old building,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter said issues have been categorized as either life safety or security control issues, actual failure of part of the systems, or equipment or operational issues. He said the study has provided council a good understanding of what the problems are and how to bring the detention center up to the standard where it needs to be.

“It’s time for us to seriously consider what we need to do with this facility and how we’re going to address it,” Carpenter said, adding that it has been maintained in a way where the community’s safety is not compromised.

Carpenter said the population of detainees creates more wear and tear than other people. Detainees tend to destroy more fixtures and put things in plumbing lines that shouldn’t be there, he explained. He also said that, due to the facility’s age, things like air conditioning and exterior walls need repairs.

Carpenter pointed out, however, that the county is not under any consent orders, nor is “the Department of Corrections … knocking at our doors, but then we don’t want that to happen.”

Before the county can add on to the building, such repairs need to be done, Carpenter said, but stressing that the jail is not a threat to the public or to its employees. However, he also noted that if repairs are made, detainees would have to be housed in another, nearby jail.

“We’d have to pay for that,” he said.

In response to a question from Jones, Carpenter said repairs to the detention center would be the county’s No. 1 capital cost expenditure.

“This is not something we can put on the shelf,” he said.

Jones encouraged council members to visit the jail, to see the conditions and what the employees have to put up with. Carpenter said that was a possibility.

Wise said that, in terms of budgets, he doesn’t want any surprises in regards to capital expenses. Carpenter says that council’s January retreat would be a good time to cover these expenses. Smoak agreed that would be the time to discuss specifics, include costs, where funds will come from and where they will be allocated. Jones also agreed and added that elected officials will have to be more responsible in getting requests to council in a timely manner.

“The sooner we assess these issues, the more money we save,” Councilman Tom Gardner added. “If this had been done 5 years ago it may have been a half million dollar project.”

Council also spoke in more detail about the retreat. It will be held at Shaw Recreation Center, January 10- 11, and will follow a similar format to the one set up in previous years. Carpenter said budget workshops will also be held in March and April with a goal of having the budget ready by May.

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