Polk commissioners still uncertain about location for new social services building

Published 3:20 pm Thursday, May 7, 2009

Commissioner Warren Watson said when he approved the county&39;s purchase of two acres on Park Street he knew traffic improvements would need to be included in the building budget. Watson also mentioned that the road may need to be widened and commissioners just need to look at the total overall costs of both locations.

Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill said one of his biggest concerns is traffic, especially with the 108 intersection. Hill said other issues are past incidents at DSS, including a recent incident in which a man crashed into four vehicles at DSS and an incident a few years ago in which a man made threats at DSS with guns on the premises. Hill mentioned his concerns because a daycare center is located on one side of the proposed Park Street location and a community pool and children&squo;s recreation park on the other side.

Hill also said commissioners may not be aware of a new law that says a registered sex offender cannot be within 200 feet of a children&squo;s recreational center. There is the possibility that a sex offender could be required to come to the new building if mental health is also housed there, he said. Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson said that certified sex offender counselors are few and far between and the chances of a sex offender having sessions&bsp; at that location would be very small. Whitson also said that it&squo;s not all horrible people that go to DSS and asked if Hill was advocating putting DSS at the middle school acreage or somewhere else. Whitson said DSS is a service the county must provide and every location has people against it being housed there.

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&dquo;That&squo;s the problem,&dquo; Whitson said, &dquo;Where do you put it?&dquo;

Deborah Barlow, who lives across the street from the proposed Park Street location, said her concern is with traffic and the many children who walk up the street in the summertime to the pool from the daycare. She asked that county officials be sure to do a traffic study.

The other possible location for the new DSS facility is on over 20 acres at the former Carolina Classical School the county is in the process of purchasing. The county already has plans for the Meeting Place Senior Center to move to the former school with renovations beginning this summer. That location is not zoned for government buildings, however, so the county would have to go through a potentially long process to get the zoning changed.

This board of commissioners has said one of its main goals is to get all services out of the Jervey Palmer building (the former St. Luke&squo;s Hospital) on Carolina Drive in Tryon, which is aged and needs major work.

The Jervey Palmer building currently houses the Meeting Place, DSS, mental health and veteran&squo;s affairs.