New judicial center set to open in downtown Florence

New judicial center set to open in downtown Florence

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - The next big project in downtown Florence is underway and is set to open in January 2018.

Construction is happening on South Irby Street on the 120,000-square-foot new Florence County Judicial Center. The $43 million project is the newest landmark people will notice heading into downtown.

"It's just a real iconic-type building for Florence," said Florence County Chairman Kent Caudle.

The judicial center is three stories with three circuit court rooms, three family court and conference rooms, a large control room with monitors to observe every camera, and a completely concrete slab floor where 10 prison holding cells will be located.

"Right now we are on time, on schedule and on budget, so that's exciting," Caudle said. "You know, a lot of time you get into these things there are a lot of hidden costs, but we are on top of it."

The genesis for the project was improving court safety in Florence County. Currently, courtrooms are housed in the Florence County Complex building.

Waymon Mumford, the retired Florence police chief and county councilman, said he is thankful there has not been any major issues.

"In the new building here, the judge will have private entry going into the building away from the inmate, away from the public," Mumford said. "The elevator will be private for them, and the public and inmate will be completely separate."

The separate entrances and elevators is not how the courts in the county complex building are set up. The top floors of the current courts will be vacated and there will be 40,000 square feet of space available at the building for government or lease space.

Another need the new building will address is better parking access.

"This will be totally dedicated to the judicial system," Caudle said. "That's why we are calling it the judicial center. It won't be blended with property tax or utility bills."

The $43 million funding comes solely through bonds, so the county is paying it back and with a small impact on tax payers. This is in addition to the two capital penny sales taxes.

"We have talked about actually a possibility of a third capital penny sales tax and possibly use some of that money to pay this debt off," Caudle said. "That way it would come off the citizens' taxes. That is a potential possibly. We really considered it."

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