CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - The Horry County Solicitor’s Office purchased the former Conway Hospital to accommodate it’s growing staff and programs.
“We were out of room with our mental health court, drug court, PTI (pretrial intervention) all of that,” 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson explained. “The biggest thing is, as you are adding new programs like mental health court, you run out of room in a hurry. In fact, when we moved into the courthouse, the Solicitor’s Office in 2003, we were already out of room in 2003.”
The department purchased the building located near the Conway Police Department in May 2017 for $875,000, according to Richardson. He said the purchase was financed with fees paid by pretrial intervention participants.
The price of the three-floor building was similar to the estimated cost to renovate one of the Solicitor’s Office current buildings that is much smaller.
Currently, the Solicitor’s Office is spread out across four buildings. The new building will allow some of these departments and programs to be consolidated.
“I do think it’s a great benefit to the county by having drug court, mental health court and pretrial intervention and all of the umbrellas under that, which is traffic court and alcohol education, all in one building,” Richardson said.
The building will house treatment programs that aim to decrease crime and repeat offenders throughout the county, along with the Horry County Drug Enforcement Unit.
“Drug court has been a great model. It has save literally millions,” Richardson explained of one of the programs that will be housed in the new building.
Richardson said 450 people have graduated from drug court who previously average 11 arrests each. Following their participation in the program, there has only been a total of 100 arrests between the participants, according to Richardson.
“That’s a pretty big step in the right direction when you go from 5,000 warrants to 100, especially when you do that in light of a heroin epidemic,” Richardson said.
Renovations to the building are estimated to cost around $1.1 million, but no Horry County taxpayer money will finance the project.
“I take a lot of pride in not using county funds,” Richardson said.
A majority of the funds, 65%, come from state funding. Money awarded from civil forfeiture cases in Horry County will fund 26% of the cost. The remaining funds are generated from fines and fees from the Worthless Check Unit and Escheatment restricted funding.
“Sometimes it takes 10 to 15 years of putting money aside to be able to do this but we just cramped up a bit tighter over the last few years and put enough money away and we didn’t have to borrow any and we didn’t have to go to the county to ask for any,” Richardson said.
Richardson said he expects the building to be fully operational next May.
When it opens, the office will still have room to grow onto the third floor. The county will also be able to make money back by selling the buildings where the programs are currently housed.