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Forsyth County unveils new sheriff’s office

Officials and invited guests tour the communications center of the new Forsyth County Sheriff's office in downtown Winston-Salem, Thursday, May 1, 2014. (David Rolfe/Journal)

Officials and invited guests tour the communications center of the new Forsyth County Sheriff's office in downtown Winston-Salem, Thursday, May 1, 2014. (David Rolfe/Journal)

FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office personnel have been utilizing their new facility for several months now, but on Thursday they got a chance to show it off to the community.

County commissioners performed an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the grand opening of the Forsyth County Public Safety Center on Thursday afternoon. Local officials, county employees and community members took guided tours of the facility afterward.

Richard Linville, chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, said it was a historic day. He pointed out that the commissioners were interested in the building for many years, even before the completion of the county government center about a decade ago.

“Putting the building back in use after decades of inactivity has been great from a community perspective,” Linville said.

The new sheriff’s office is at 301 N. Church St. The building was formerly known as the Phillips Building. The county completely gutted the building for a full renovation.

The sheriff’s office only occupies two of the six floors. The third floor is set aside for future sheriff’s office expansion, while the other floors are available for other tenants. The county is working on a plan to move probation and parole offices onto one floor.

The county purchased the building in 2009 for about $3.5 million, setting aside $36.1 million for the overall project.

During the ceremony, Sheriff Bill Schatzman thanked the commissioners for funding it.

“It will take Forsyth County 30 years, 40 years down the road,” he said.

The new sheriff’s office includes conference rooms, a gym, defensive tactics room, computer lab, training classrooms, situation room, communication center, and more. The building also has three levels of parking underneath.

Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt took special interest in the Emergency Operations Center, which also serves as the office’s multi-purpose room. The large room can serve as a coordination hub for various agencies in the event of a large-scale emergency in the county.

“I think I’m more excited about that than I am anything, that now Forsyth County and Winston-Salem has a proper place to conduct an emergency situation,” Whisenhunt said.

Commissioners Walter Marshall said he was pleased to see the building in downtown Winston-Salem, contributing to downtown development.

“The future, the 21st century, I think is really going to be served well,” Commissioner Dave Plyler said.

“I’m proud that now you have a facility that’s the quality that matches your service,” Commissioner Mark Baker told sheriff’s office personnel.

With the new building, the sheriff’s office is seeing an increase in work space from about 50,000 to 102,000 square feet. The county still owns the old sheriff’s office building on Third Street but has discussed the possibility of selling it.