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Randolph County sheriff ordered to halt operations at garage

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ASHEBORO, N.C. -- The Randolph County Sheriff opened a maintenance garage in Asheboro to service his department's cruisers only to have the county manager shut it down.

"Someone on the inside was very familiar with what was going on there and actually seen what was going on there," Commissioner Darrel Frye said.

Through anonymous tips and a complaint made to the state department of labor, Randolph County officials found out about the sheriff's office's maintenance facility.

"In the county building that did not meet some of the OSHA standards and of course we're already worried about that," said Hal Johnson, county manager.

Sheriff Greg Seabolt said the intent of this garage was to save taxpayers money by doing the maintenance on their vehicles themselves, which is a practice he said is done by other agencies.

He projected the starting costs to be around $75,000 for equipment and pay.

"If we save money, we can use that money for needed equipment down the road that we need to ask county commissions for," Seabolt said.

But questions raised forced county officials to investigate the safety of the building.

"if there's a fire.. are the exits properly marked? Is the building sprinkled?" Frye said.

He said they also received word that deputies and inmates were making these repairs on the vehicles.

"I don't know what their qualifications are," Frye said. "If they're qualified to work on a vehicle? What type of service are they performing? Are they changing oil and rotating tires? What is the full extent of the duties being performed there."

Seabolt said that shouldn't be a concern and that inmates work under the close supervision of qualified workers.

"We're not going to put a person down there that is not capable of doing what he's required to do. We're going to make sure it's done right," Seabolt said.

County Manager Hal Johnson sent Seabolt a letter last week forcing the garage to close, stating that an inspection needed to be done before the operation could continue.

"Ultimately, the board of county commissioners would have to approve any new classifications that employs for mechanical positions that we do not have at this time."

Frye said opening this garage was not a priority, which is why the commissioners denied its funding in the first place.

"Sheriff's have always been given some leeway, so if they save in one area, they can use it somewhere else. This was more about lack of communication and what needed to be done," Frya said.

The sheriff is working with county officials to get the inspections done and analyze the costs of the garage.

Frye said it can open back up once all of that is complete.

They have a meeting scheduled for Thursday.

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