Raising the Bars: New County Safety Center Bristles With Technology
The land where the biggest new county building is rising was all sand and scrub — a huge vacant lot in the middle of Carthage — the first time Rich Smith saw the place.
He had come down from Pennsylvania to help a new owner of Little River get zoning in place. He kept finding reasons to stay — work, love, fun.
And while other jobs would eventually lead him around the country, he knew he wanted to come back here, eventually beating 35 other applicants to become Moore County’s director of property management.
“I was working on the road at that time for almost a year, building stores, like a working foreman,” he said. “I was miserable — being away for three or four weeks at a time and home for two days. I was in California when they told me I had the job and 24 hours to come in and do a drug test.”
Now he’s caring for every building and every vehicle Moore County owns. That’s a full-time job by itself — but his biggest job these days is supervising construction, including the new public safety center complex in Carthage. He oversees every detail, every board and every nail, of building the new facility.
Recently, Smith gave The Pilot a tour of the enormous building from one end to the other — entering through a gaping opening that will one day be a secure entrance for prisoner transport.
State-of-the-art is a term Smith uses frequently as he describes the quality of work being done. Every contract, every plan drawing, every specification is literally in Smith’s hands on a tablet computer he carries with him.
“You betcha,” Smith said. “I’ve got it organized by electrical, plumbing — each floor, each building — I worked very hard on that.”
Later, in management, that will help.
“I know where everything is,” he said. “This building houses the sheriff, narcotics, emergency services, 911 — all those people. That is all in this building. This is the actual sally port. If you are in a sheriff’s van, you come in here if you were going to be booked.”
He points to a coating that covers every beam — fireproofing in addition to a sprinkler system — as he leads on into a courtroom-to-be with mocked-up furniture.
“This is the magistrate’s courtroom,” Smith said. “There is a witness stand, there a court reporter.”
Someday even small claims court could be run from this room. It will be fully TV-equipped, so a judge could be in chambers and hold court remotely.
“A witness could be sworn in, take the stand, and a judge sitting in his office could carry on court right here.”
It is a way of handling first appearances right from the detention center. Visitation will be through video screens instead of windows; 26 video visitation stations are at one side of the main lobby.
“Now you are going out into the secure area,” Smith said, moving through a doorway opening. “This is where the public would not go. If you are going into the Sheriff’s Office, you come in that front door and an officer takes you back. Everybody that works here comes in the side door — the back entrance — using their own secure keys. The electronic security in this place is mind-boggling. This room right here is the brains of the whole place: the master control room.”
There are two other control rooms, one for the first and second floor of the jail building and another for the third and fourth floors.
“They are under this, so this overrides everything,” Smith said. “You can shut off every light, shut off a toilet, open a door. It has one button lockdown, and one button open up if you make a mistake.”
Smith points out miles of conduit work, fireproofing to meet various standards. Pausing by an opening, he points to a tiny white dot barely visible at the far side of the lot.
“That’s the satellite dish control,” he said. “That’s the master control point, the benchmark. The entire job is built off that point. Everything goes out electronically (communicating with) everybody’s GPS. If you want to shoot the elevation, the height of that wall, any part, you can.”
Every piece of earth-moving equipment is controlled from satellites. Smith’s tablet has the contour map ready at hand.
Stenciled words on every part of the structure show its expected fire resistance. Smith shows the jail section where one row of cells is mounted above a second one on each of two stories. Behind the cell rows is a long hall giving secure access to plumbing. Nobody will have to enter a cell to work on a toilet.
At each end of cell areas in twin arms of the detention section a single officer has full view through bulletproof windows. Nobody has to be inside the cell areas to supervise. Federal prisoners brought in for trial on state charges or to appear as witnesses can be held in Moore County in cells that meet federal standards — a difference of a few inches in cell width.
All these areas have seams filled with special secure material.
“You can’t have anything anywhere that somebody could actually chisel out, put a knife in, hide something,” Smith said. “There are no crevices anywhere; can’t be.”
Building completion is expected for the fall, but the first prisoners may not be inside until early next year.
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story