SNOW HILL – A new public safety facility would provide law enforcement with much needed space and a more visible location, according to Sheriff Matt Crisafulli.
Crisafulli met with the Worcester County Commissioners last week to talk about the need for a new public safety building. Currently, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office is housed in the basement of the government building in Snow Hill.
“We’re running out of space,” Crisafulli said. “We’re taking closet space to make offices.”
The concept of a new public safety building came up in a recent discussion of the county’s capital improvement plan. The plan includes a $32.6 million facility that would house Worcester County Emergency Services, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office and potentially the state’s attorney, fire marshal and child advocacy center. As a result, Crisafulli and other public safety personnel were in attendance at last week’s meeting to discuss the project.
Crisafulli said when the government building was constructed, his office had about 50 deputies. Now he has 96.
“We’re potentially going from 50 deputies in 2001 to 100 deputies in 2022,” he said.
He added that a facility in a more visible location, such as on Route 113, would also be good for the county.
“I think we need to be out in the public’s eye instead of in the basement where we’re not as accessible,” he said.
When asked about square footage needs, county staff said that would be determined in a feasibility study. As for a potential piece of land for the building, Crisafulli said officials were considering the property the county owned between the health department and the jail.
Commissioner Chip Bertino said he’d always questioned the sheriff’s office location in the basement but indicated the cost of a new facility would be significant.
“Thirty-two million is a big lift certainly,” he said.
Bertino added that the county had already committed to projects in the school system’s capital plan, which included a new Buckingham Elementary School and Snow Hill Elementary School.
“Those are big ticket items,” he said.
Bertino questioned if the county’s finance team had looked at bonding and how this would potentially fit in.
“They are looking at it now,” Chief Administrative Officer Weston Young said.
Crisafulli said his department would continue to work with what they had for now. He added, however, that unfunded mandates from the state, such as the police reform measures approved this year, would require him to add more support staff.
“Our projections are also that potentially within the next 10 years we may have just as many support staff as we do sworn personnel to keep up with the changing times…,” he said. “This is for future planning.”
Commissioner Diana Purnell said what Crisafulli had described was essentially a public safety campus. She praised the idea of making it more visible to the community.
“I think what Berlin did when they decided to come from downtown and go on 113, it made a lot of difference,” she said.
Commissioner Ted Elder said the project was an important one.
“We’re going to have some tough times ahead,” he said. “It might destroy some of the plans like some people had, like the sports complex or some of the other things, because the only way we’re going to be able to sustain these kinds of costs is to really tighten our belts a lot. I hope we don’t end up like some of the other counties that have such a high rate of taxes.”