Aiken government center will have new look, new rules
The new Aiken County Government Center will soon bring together more than 200 employees scattered about in eight different buildings.
According to County Administrator Clay Killian, the project is on track to be completed by early spring and is also on budget. The $37.5 million designated for the new building covers design, construction, furniture and fixtures.
The 133,000-square-foot facility located on University Parkway will replace the current County complex located on Richland Avenue, which once served as a hospital until about the 1970s.
On Oct. 22, County Council approved $1.45 million for new furniture and another $96,977.20 to move into the building when it's complete. There was also much discussion on security, building policy and how to make the new Government Center the County's own.
Security will be discussed more in depth by staff and Council in the coming months. Killian said the new building is more secure than the current County complex.
Employees will have access to their departments through a key card system. Security cameras will be inside the new building and outside in the parking lot.
The Government Center is equipped for metal detectors, but there are no current plans to have them installed.
Killian said it's a balancing act when dealing with the security of a public building. Residents should feel welcome, but the County also wants to protect them as well as employees.
Killian said that security assessments will be conducted with the assistance of Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt and Aiken Public Safety Chief Charles Barranco.
Several suggestions for building policies have been made, which will go to Council for approval.
The use of tobacco products is recommended to be prohibited in or on the property. That includes the parking lots.
As for the employees, there will be a cafe for meals, and it's being recommended that they no longer eat at their desks.
The draft policy also proposes that employees be limited to two personal items, such as photos or awards, in their workspace. It also suggests that only diplomas and certificates, limited to three, be allowed to hang on the walls.
Councilman Chuck Smith said at the Oct. 22 meeting that he was concerned that some of the suggested rules will dehumanize the work environment of County employees. Other Council members asked if and how the County would enforce the smoking policy on the public.
Council will be discussing policy at a later date.
The County is looking at ways to put a little historical twist in its new building.
Staff brainstormed some names for the conference rooms and came up with the idea of using historic townships including Silverton, Shaws, Hopewell, Shultz, Chinquepin, Gregg and Hammond. The training room will be called “Sandlapper,” which is a nickname for South Carolinians.
A committee is also working on finding local artwork to display in the building.
Lastly, a time capsule will be placed somewhere on the property. Killian said they are considering placing it in a vacant space underneath the stairwells on the second floor of the building.
Council will set a date of when it will be opened.
Amy Banton is the County reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the publication since May 2010.