Employees begin move to new Florence judicial center

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – Employees of the Florence County Courthouse have started moving into the new judicial center right across the street in downtown Florence.

The clerk of court's office will start operating in the $32 million building Monday.

On Thursday, crews were putting the finishing touches in and around the brand new facility. County Councilman James Schofield said it offers more privacy and security to the employees and the public.

In the current courthouse, there is no sprinkler system. Also, prisoners were able to be seen by the public in hallways and on the elevators.

The new building is equipped with a private elevator for prisoners only.

Unlike the current courthouse, family court has a room where a witness can testify without physically being inside the courtroom.

"It's just we've moved into the 21st century and got a fine facility that should last this community, and speaks very well of this community that we're dedicated to having a very safe and orderly process in law enforcement and administration of justice," Schofield said.

Soon, clerk of court Doris O'Hara will say farewell to a building she has worked in since 1990. Her team started packing weeks ago for the big move.

"It's a long time coming, but we're excited," O'Hara said. "We're just all kind of scattered in this building and we just pretty much outgrew this building."

The current courthouse has 11 floors, with her team of around 40 employees spread out on different levels. O'Hara said even retrieving files is a hassle.

"It's just going to be much easier to be all together. My general sessions and common pleas court will be together, family court is all on the second floor, you know, keeping us together," O'Hara said.

It's the files, however, that are the biggest problem. Thousands and thousands of them line the walls in rooms scattered around the courthouse.

"We can't even take all of them, there's so many files and that's the biggest obstacle for us, to be able to get in them, the public to get in them, and then at the same time get it to the new judicial center," she said.

Two of O'Hara's employees have already moved into the new building. While it's a lot of work, the clerk of court is looking forward to settling into her new space. She said the new office was built for growth and security, complete with bulletproof glass.

"It is absolutely gorgeous. It's awesome, ample space, ample offices, storage, but it's absolutely beautiful," O'Hara said.

County officials said part of the old courthouse will be renovated and leased out to businesses and agencies.

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