After over a year of intense debate and false starts, on Thursday, March 21, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on what to do about a new headquarters for the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department. At a work session in the Blue Room of the Old Guilford County Court House, the board voted to build a brand new two-story Law Enforcement Center (LEC) at a cost of $12 million. The new building will be built on the site of the aging Otto Zenke building that now houses those Sheriff’s Department’s administrative operations.
In the discussion preceding the vote, Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers spoke on a need for greater space to accommodate future growth in the department’s administration. Rogers told the board that his department needed additional space for classrooms and training as well as for staff growth expected in future years; however, the commissioners argued that the two-story building plan was the result of a space needs study that found the 35,000-square foot building would allow for 10 percent additional growth over current needs.
Several commissioners said that the county could address any more growth than that in future years.
Commissioner Jeff Phillips said the board had been debating the subject long enough.
“I feel like we’re in the Twilight Zone, I feel like we’ve gone back in time about a year,” he said.
He said that, in all due respect to the sheriff and his future needs, a study the county funded found that the two-story building was more than adequate to meet the current needs. Phillips also said he didn’t want to delay it further.
“We should let the pros do their job,” he said of the firm that had studied the department’s needs.
According to rough estimates provided to the board, an additional floor on the building would add about $1.5 million to $2 million to the cost, and that would only be the cost to construct the “shell” of that floor.
Rogers pointed out to the board that, in a discussion last year, the board had been prepared to spend $17 million to renovate the old jail in downtown Greensboro for that purpose, but Commissioner Skip Alston interrupted him and said that that amount was no longer on the table.