HANCOCK COUNTY – Nobody really likes to pack their bags to move – especially after 34 years. But that was the task given to administrative officials at the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department last week.
After 34 years of operations, sitting outside the old county jail, front desk staff closed up shop this week in the old jail, packed up boxes and moved into the new jail where they spent several days unloading and getting things ready for work.
The county’s new multi-million jail opens for official business on Monday, May 16. This means that anyone needing help from the county sheriff’s department will need to contact the front office at their new offices.
Sheriff Brad Burkhart and several other administrators helped matron Susan Coy, who essentially runs the sheriff’s office along with Penney Weiler and Dayna McCall, transport their items to the new jail on Monday.
The ladies then spent the rest of the week acclimating and getting things in place to ensure they are able to help callers who need reports, receipts or other aids.
When asked midweek how the move was going, Coy replied with a laugh, “I’m fine.”
Although she noted that the new jail offices are easy to like because there’s a lot more space, she and the other sheriff’s officials know it will take some time to settle in and feel at home. them as they did in the old prison.
For Burkhart, who has worked at the old prison for 34 years, he said it was difficult to leave the old facility with so many memories. Yet he knows that the move to the new offices and prison had to happen.
“I know we’re going to do a lot of good things in the new prison, not just for the next 34 years, but way beyond that for the next 50 years or more,” Burkhart said.
The sheriff’s big goal last week was to get the front office moving. He and his second in command, Major Bobby Campbell, helped move the reception staff. This included packing and transporting boxes, unloading and even installing photocopiers.
“Our front office is who we and people call if they need an accident report, something about the sheriff’s sales, or invoices and claims, whatever runs this business,” Burkhart said.
While most things sheriff’s office workers do these days are electronic, Burkhart noted that there are files and files of documents and evidence stored in the old jail that need to go to the new facilities.
“We have a lot of stuff that we can’t get rid of,” Burkhart said. “We have boxes of ’60s stuff, all full of files we can’t leave behind.”
Most of these types of things will take months to move. In the meantime, the administrative staff is fixed and ready to roll. Coy noted that even though they closed the official office last week to move, they answered the phones throughout the move and helped people.
For Coy, who had the smallest office in the old prison and even ran out of filing space in his office after 15 years, the move to a new facility was long overdue.
“I really needed more space for a long time,” she said.
However, Coy noted that she will miss the proximity to all the county offices like the annex building, the district attorney’s office, the probation department and the county courthouse which are all in one area, within walking distance when she had to drop off or pick up paperwork.
These types of exchanges will need to be better coordinated and probably happen once a day if they can’t send things electronically.
“We just won’t be able to cross the street anymore,” Coy said.
Weiler and McCall answer most incoming phone calls to the sheriff’s department. Weiler handles payroll and HR operations while McCall handles civil paperwork.
“I’m more than ready for the move,” McCall said.
They sit next to each other in the new main entrance to the administrative office as they did in the old office, but now have more work space.
Now their biggest challenge moving forward will be making sure they continue to head east on US 40 to the new office instead of turning right into the old facility next Monday. .
“I already told the sheriff ‘I’m not going to say I’m not going to park in our old parking lot,'” Weiler said with a laugh.
The ladies at reception have already tried to make the new area friendlier and had time on Tuesday afternoon to plant flowers outside the administrative office area to give the new structure a more welcoming look.
Capt. Robert Harris, the sheriff’s public information officer, had the chance Wednesday night to move his office from the old facility to the new one. He thinks the new facility and larger administrative offices will help the department run even more smoothly.
“Our operations are going to be more centralized with everything easier to access on the day-to-day operations side,” Harris said.
Officials noted that while they will be open for business on Monday morning, people still need to be patient as it will still take several months for everything to move. The inmates are expected to be transferred later this summer if all continues to go as planned.