In a word, the focus for Hall County government in the past year seemed to be “bigger.”
Hall County Sheriff’s Office officials expect to move by late May or early June into new headquarters on Browns Bridge Road beside the Hall County Government Center.
The floorplan allows for bigger interview rooms that were wired for audio and video. The community service window at the current law enforcement center was a janitor’s storage closet that was turned into an office.
“We’re so cramped in the spaces that we’re in now,” Sheriff Gerald Couch said. “We’re hopeful that this space here combined with our two precincts should provide us with many years of growth long, long after I’m gone.”
Officials said a considerable amount of savings have come through inmate labor at the facility, where 10 inmates work each day on completing the headquarters.
Though acquiring body cameras and a records management system are still on the horizon, Couch said data and other electronic media will be housed on servers at the government center.
Much of the furniture comes from surplus stores, where items like cubicles usually priced in the thousands of dollars were purchased for roughly $250.
“With the amount of money that we have allocated for this building, you had to be creative and look for other ways to cut spending and save money but still have something nice,” Couch said.
Couch said the project is currently under budget with the estimate hovering below $100 per square foot.
“Really what we’re trying to cultivate here is a one-stop shop for citizens, sort of a campus feel for government services,” Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said.
The Hall County Correctional Institution opened in February, a 200-bed facility with updated security equipment. The new building on Barber Road replaced its 53-year-old predecessor.
Warden Walt Davis said the correctional institution finished on a $3.6 million budget, almost half of the estimated $7 million expected under traditional means. Davis attributed the savings to county officials working as their own contractor and inmate labor.
Meanwhile, 15 new work stations were built at Hall County’s 911 center, and Hall County Fire Services christened its Marine Rescue One.
In December, the upgraded emergency phone network for the 911 center went live from the funds approved in the March 2015 special purpose local option sales tax vote.
The center’s director, Gail Lane, said Hall County is now ready for the build-out on the state’s emergency services IP network, which is still several years ahead.
“Once that happens and we can plug in … we will truly become an IT-based network,” she said.
New work stations completed at the center come with an ergonomic design to allow for standing, a tool that Lane feels will greatly enhance alertness.
“When I started at the 911 center, you had to sit right there,” Lane said. “You couldn’t move hardly.”
The heating, ventilation and air conditioning system will now run under a raised floor that will create energy savings, Lane said.
The boat serves a marine rescue team in its 11th year that previously operated on a converted Yamaha skiboat with an inflatable backup.
“It’s one of the busiest marine rescue teams in the nation based on call volume and, unfortunately, victim removal,” Deputy Fire Chief Chad Black previously told The Times.
The rescue team most recently made headlines after the rescue of Wayne Mock, a retired law enforcement officer who became hypothermic after falling out of his kayak.