Drivers appearing before a judge in Aiken because they want to get a speeding ticket dismissed might one day be able to go next door afterward and check out a library book.
Aiken County Council Chairman Gary Bunker told the Aiken Standard on Tuesday that he and other county officials are exploring the possibility of moving Aiken County Traffic Court to the vacant wing of the building that is the home of the Aiken County Public Library.
The traffic court currently is located in the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office complex on Hampton Avenue.
“We want to make the best use of the facilities we have on hand, particularly those facilities that are vacant right now, as opposed to building new facilities,” Bunker said. “I think that always makes the most sense if they (the vacant facilities) can be rehabbed.”
County officials are looking for a new Traffic Court site because of plans to construct a new Aiken County Sheriff’s Office complex.
Capital Project Sales Tax IV, which local voters approved last November, will provide $11 million for that project.
The new sheriff’s office complex “will be on Wire Road, we think, but that has yet to be officially determined,” Bunker said.
As of now, there is no space for the traffic court in the new sheriff’s office complex plans.
The traffic court “is a small operation that’s currently occupying a small portion” of the current sheriff’s office complex, Bunker said
“It’s going to be left behind and be by itself,” he continued, “and we just don’t think that is a good place for it.”
The building that is the public library’s home is at 314 Chesterfield St. S.
One of its wings was completed in 1891, and the other wing was added in 1913.
Since 1990, the public library has been in the brick structure, which formerly served as a school building.
The vacant wing, which also is known as the north wing, “has been essentially unused for a quarter of a century,” Bunker said.
Miscellaneous old furniture and other items are stored in there.
“It’s a fine structure, “ Bunker said. “You walk in and you see peeling paint, and you see a lot of what people might call leftover stuff. I believe there is even a classroom with a partially collapsed ceiling. But I don’t think there is anything that would prevent the building from being reused at a relatively economical cost.”
Bunker added that the idea of relocating the traffic court to Chesterfield Street has been discussed with Aiken County Chief Magistrate Donna Williamson, Aiken-Bamberg-Barnwell-Edgefield Regional Library System Director Mary Jo Dawson and Friends of the Aiken County Library President Bill Reynolds.
“There is $1.6 million in Capital Project Sales Tax III that was designated for work on that wing of the building,” Bunker said, “and so we could utilize that” to do the renovations needed to accommodate the traffic court.
In the shorter term, the county is planning to use some of the funds to make improvements that would allow some of the space in the vacant wing to be used for the public library’s needs while that facility is undergoing a major renovation.
The county and the Friends of the Library recently entered into a memorandum of understanding to establish a public-private sector partnership that will generate up to $3 million to refurbish the public library.