Once the Dawson County Law Enforcement Center opened in 2007, accused criminals thought they’d never have to set foot in the old, dilapidated jail again.
But with the move of the magistrate’s office to the newly renovated building last week, those accused of crimes must return to the old jail to sit before a magistrate judge for bond hearings.
Chief Magistrate Judge Lisa Thurmond celebrated the grand opening of the new magistrate court offices at 59 Justice Way last Thursday and invited a crowd to see how the building has been transformed.
For the past year and a half, the building has only been used as a county storage facility.
Sheriff Billy Carlisle, who quit using the detention center after the county’s new 1-cent tax funded jail was completed, said he couldn’t believe the transformation.
“When I look at it now, I don’t know how we ever operated in such a small facility and still functioned,” he said.
Thurmond said the office space is ideal for the magistrate offices, at least until the new courthouse and administration center is built.
“We’re in a more secure location ... in the shadow of our big brother. The sheriff can actually sit at his desk and see what’s going on back here,” Thurmond said.
“We’re safe. But the other thing it does is saves taxpayer dollars, and during this difficult time, we need to do that.”
Moving the magistrate offices to the old jail is part of the county’s plan to cut more than $100,000 from its operating budget by eliminating the cost to lease office space.
The county’s facility management department, with help from inmate labor, completed the renovation for about $8,000, according to County Manager Kevin Tanner.
“The more we can save, it means there will be more money for us to do the things we need to do,” said Mike Berg, chairman of the Dawson County Board of Commissioners. “Moving folks from rented space to buildings we’ve got available until we get the new home for all of us built is really the type of thing we expect from our county manager, to find ways to save money.”
The magistrate offices will remain in the old jail until the new voter-approved courthouse and administrative center is complete. County officials hope to break ground on the project by the end of the year.
“Judge Thurmond is going to have the best view right out her window as the new courthouse begins to take shape,” Tanner said.
E-mail Michele Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org.