Editorial: Officials must find sensible balance with government center
The new Aiken County Government Center should be considered a public investment for the future.
With an estimated cost of $37.5 million, it’s certainly understandable to want to protect that asset and make sure it lasts.
Local leaders have expressed concerns about safety, security and a need to preserve the building for the years ahead. Concentrating on those issues makes sense.
County employees have operated in the same building for decades since it was converted from a hospital years ago. Consequently, there’s no exact formula or precedent in place to ensure the right policies and procedures are implemented for a brand new, 133,000-square-foot facility.
The County obviously wants to protect its new investment, but the best way to do so is through cost-effective and sensible solutions.
More than 200 employees will move into the building in early spring. The transition is estimated to carry an additional expenditure of nearly $2 million, including moving costs totaling about $97,000 and more than $1 million worth of furniture.
While those details have been hashed out, there are still a number of lingering questions about how to conduct daily business in the new center.
Security concerns are set to be more comprehensively discussed by staff and County Council in the coming months, but the new building is already expected to be more secure than the current County complex.
While the new building is equipped for metal detectors, there are no current plans to have them installed. The County should think hard before performing that installation. Meetings can undoubtedly get heated and with recent tragedies still in the public conscience, it’s understandable to explore that option.
However, as stated before, the building is a public asset built with the public’s tax dollars. While it should be secure, it should also feel accessible.
Additionally, County officials have proposed formally recommending employees don’t eat at their desks and that employees be limited to two personal items, such as photos or awards, in their workspaces.
Councilman Chuck Smith has expressed reservations with such policies, noting such rules could dehumanize employees. We agree.
All residents should want a County building that’s practical and is built to last. Local officials must find the right balance to make that attainable.