Police Station Rental Advances

RIDGEWAY – Town Council’s scheme to move Ridgeway’s Police Department from 160 S. Palmer St. and into the Century House at 170 S. Dogwood Ave. took a leap forward last week as Councilman Russ Brown put the question to a vote.

Council fist took the matter up at a Sept. 22 work session when Brown said the Town could save $500 a month in utility costs at the station and net as much as an additional $600 in rent. A move to the Century House would also give the Police Department access to internet, something lacking at the current station.

Half of any rent collected by leasing the police station, however, would have to go to Norfolk Southern Railway, which owns the property on which the station sits, plus the Town would be on the hook for a one-time fee of $750 for subleasing any of the buildings that currently stand on the railroad’s property.

During Council’s Oct. 8 meeting, Mayor Charlene Herring urged Council to wait another month to find out if the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office would be interested in leasing the station for use as a substation. Councilman Donald Prioleau said Sheriff Will Montgomery was ready to make such a commitment, pending funding from County Council.

Brown then put the motion on the floor to relocate the Department to the Century House and make the station available for lease if the Sheriff’s Office was not interested in putting in a substation. Councilman Heath Cookendorfer seconded the motion.

Countering Herring’s argument touting the value of a police presence on Ridgeway’s main street, Cookendorfer said, “A building is not presence. An active police officer on duty is presence.”

“And it’s a building we can rent out for additional revenue, instead of it costing us money,” Cookendorfer added. “I would like to turn a profit instead of losing money.”

Herring cast the lone vote against the proposed move, a vote she moved to change after Cookendorfer made it clear “We’re not making any move until we hear from the County (Sheriff).”

Sheriff Montgomery, meanwhile, told The Voice Monday that his office has no interest at this time in locating a substation inside the Ridgeway police station. There is very little, he said, that deputies can do inside a static location that they cannot do in their patrol cars, and he would prefer to have officers out on the beat. Deputies already patrol Ridgeway and surrounding areas, he said.

As of press time, Ridgeway remains without a police officer. Two candidates were interviewed during executive session on Oct. 8. Herring said this week that the Town had offered the position to one of the candidates, but had not received a response when The Voice went to press.

Regarding the fee and the 50 percent of rent the Town would have to pay the railroad, as stipulated in a lease agreement Ridgeway signed with Norfolk Southern earlier this year, Brown suggested hiring an attorney to review the deal and perhaps encourage the railroad to make concessions.

“I noticed one or two things with the contract,” Brown said. “There’s a specific date in there that I was under the impression would be changed. That’s troublesome. There are some things we need to pay someone to look at.”