Beaufort News

Town, county try again to find new space for sheriff's office

The Town of Hilton Head Island and the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office are trying once more to find new space for deputies patrolling the community and the southern part of the county.

The town issued a request for proposals Thursday from island property owners willing to sell buildings suitable to become headquarters for the Sheriff's Office Southern Enforcement Branch.

The Sheriff's Office leases space in a remodeled, 12,200-square-foot building, built in 1983 at 7 Lagoon Road, at an annual cost of $130,671. That lease runs through Aug. 31, 2012. The town contributes about $73,000 to the rent.

Each day, about 80 to 100 employees use the office but have outgrown that space, according to the sheriff's office.

Deputies moved in 2002 from a 4,400-square-foot office building in the Northridge area formerly used as Town Hall.

The Sheriff Office says it needs at least 14,000 square feet and 70 to 100 parking spaces -- compared to its current 42 -- and room for a fenced storage area for boats, trailers and other vehicles."The current building is very old," Sheriff P.J. Tanner said. "(It) was built as a pharmacy. It wasn't designed as an office building, though it has been retrofitted. We need a new, improved, updated office space that we can buy instead of rent."

Tanner expects purchase costs to be similar to or less than what the Sheriff's Office has paid in rent at Lagoon Road since 2002.

The town and Sheriff's Office have tried for several years to find space on the island for a center.

Hilton Head bought a 10-acre property behind Pineland Station in 2001 for $1.1 million that officials said could be used for the center. But town council in 2005 killed the proposal, citing traffic concerns.

"We looked at one (building) a few years ago, but it was below flood elevation regulations," said town manager Steve Riley. "We've had these starts and stops -- projects that have fallen through because of price and other problems over the years. Now, prices are down and we're going to see what the market might bring to us. There's a large inventory of (empty) office and commercial space we hope to reuse."

The county's reluctance to share the cost of purchasing a building hampered previous attempts, Riley said.

"This time, we have that verbal commitment from the county, so the town is ready to move forward," he said.

The building must meet Federal Emergency Management Agency flood elevation requirements, have no shared access with other tenants, and be able to withstand or be retrofitted to withstand winds of up to 135 mph.

Hilton Head is expected to spend about $3 million by the end of the fiscal year for police services, traffic control, water patrol and investigators on the island by the Sheriff's Office.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at

Related Content:

Town officials plan for future: Dec. 9, 2005

Town purchases 10-acres site of $1.1M: Jan. 10, 2001