New Sumter Public Safety Complex opens doors

Sumter police, fire departments invite residents to see how penny tax has been used so far

BY ADRIENNE SARVIS
adrienne@theitem.com
Posted 9/20/18

A few months after settling into the Public Safety Complex on North Lafayette Drive, Sumter Police Department and Sumter Fire Department personnel invited residents into their new digs on Tuesday to see how their vote on the 2014 Capital Penny Sales …

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New Sumter Public Safety Complex opens doors

Sumter police, fire departments invite residents to see how penny tax has been used so far

Posted

A few months after settling into the Public Safety Complex on North Lafayette Drive, Sumter Police Department and Sumter Fire Department personnel invited residents into their new digs on Tuesday to see how their vote on the 2014 Capital Penny Sales Tax referendum came to fruition.

The first Capital Penny Sales Tax referendum, also called the Penny for Progress tax, was approved by voters in 2008, and it was extended with approval of a 2014 referendum. The goal of the tax is to collect a penny for every dollar spent during a seven-year period or until $75 million is collected, whichever comes first.

The newest tax collection began in May 2016.

"Today marks the official opening of the Public Safety Complex for the city of Sumter, made possible by the penny sales tax that our community voted on," Sumter Police Chief Russell Roark III said.

A ribbon cutting was held for the police and fire departments and the flag park that is located between the two buildings.

This was a four- to five-year project from appropriating the funds to designing the buildings and constructing both facilities, Roark said.

It's a huge morale booster to walk into a new facility, he said, particularly one that is much more user friendly.

The police department's previous building on Hampton Avenue could not support the changes in the amount of electricity required for the technology used by the agency, Roark said. For example, footage from in-car cameras and body cameras needs to be stored, and the new facility provides the opportunity to do that, he said.

Roark said the agency's improvements are all thanks to the public.

The selection of the Public Safety Complex for the penny sales tax demonstrates the partnership between the community and elected leadership to pick certain projects that have an effect on all of Sumter, he said.

"It's a great thing for public safety," he said about the project.

The location and investment the community has made in this area will only spawn growth throughout this area, he said.

Roark said Tuesday's open house was a great opportunity for residents to see how their votes have benefited the public.

"I think it's sort of a necessity that we allow the community to come in and see what they voted on," he said.

"We've got a new home," Sumter Fire Department Battalion Chief Joey Duggan said.

The public voted for the sales tax, he said, and the fire department appreciates it.

The fire department's facility has nearly doubled in size, Duggan said, and includes more features such as an on-site training room and a small gym.

Firefighters took people on tours for most of the day, he said.

Among the community members who toured the building were former firefighters.

It's always good to have former firefighters come tour a new facility, he said, and reminisce about the facilities they worked in.

Duggan said he thinks having the doors open to the community on Tuesday will make the public more receptive to continue the penny sales tax for more projects.

"I realize that it's our house," he said, "but the public's the one that allowed us to be here."

PULL OUT BOX

BY THE NUMBERS

Sumter Police Department

110 officers

68 civilian staff including dispatchers

36,000-square-foot facility

4 divisions

17 units

100+ vehicles

Sumter Fire Department

109 career firefighters

3 civilian staff

200 volunteer firefighters

32 support personnel

21 stations

25 fire engines

17 tankers

18 brush trucks

7 service trucks

21,600-square-foot facility