By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: July 8, 2019 | 1:45 p.m.
DINWIDDIE – Aside from school wrapping for the year and the return of warm weather to the county, the early summer carries another milestone to be celebrated, the opening of the county’s public safety building.
June of last year, dozens of people, ranging from community leaders, to neighboring localities and their police and fire leadership teams, and others filled the parking lot of the county new state-of-the-art public safety building to celebrate the opening of the building that now serves as the home of the Dinwiddie County Sheriff’s Office, dispatchers, fire and EMS, and the county’s emergency operations center.
In a similar vein to the Dinwiddie County Government Center building a short walk away, the public safety building was constructed with the mindset of bringing together a number of assets that had been in separate facilities under the same roof – a one-story 23,000-square-foot facility – to improve synergies between the county’s key public protection assets.
The public safety building was one stage of a four-stage project that saw the look of the county’s center of government in the Village of Dinwiddie transform over the course of a year as the that building brought many of their assets to the same facility, the government center allowed key county departments, like the health department and social services, to be within the same complex, while the school division, registrar’s office, and information technology department all received larger spaces for their operations through renovations of the former Pamplin Administration Building and the fire and EMS building, respectively.
That transformation was not purely visual for the Dinwiddie Sheriff’s Office, who spent years in their aging facility across from the government complex and for Sheriff D.T. Adams, the effects of the building has had on his department’s ability to operate has been tremendous.
“It has been fantastic,” he said simply. “I don’t have to worry about the roof leaking anymore. I don’t have to worry about the sewer smell coming from the old jail. I don’t have to worry about being cold in the winter and hot in the summer. It has been great.”
As he, Dinwiddie Fire and EMS Director Dennis Hale, and the county worked collaboratively on the development of the center, one of the biggest things discussed by the county’s public safety representatives was the need for space, both to hold current staff, files, and other needs and for future growth in the county.
“Being able to have everything in house, us, along with the rest of public safety has really made a difference here,” Adams explained. “We have gotten to know each other and bonded, which allows us to do a better job for the citizens of Dinwiddie County.”
During their time at their old office, Adams said it was a struggle to hold meetings with his deputies due to a lack of space to have everyone in the same room but, thanks to the new building, that issue has been eliminated.
“I just had a meeting with my whole office last Friday and we used the space in the operations center that we share between us and the public safety department and we were able to have all of my employees in one room,” he detailed. “I haven’t been able to do that in years. We had been using the courtroom at the courthouse but it is so nice to have everything in-house now,” adding that the new building is having an impact on morale within the department.
“I can definitely see a change in the working environment and the attitude of the deputies here,” the sheriff explained.
A year into the building’s operational life, there have, thankfully, been few instances where some of the building’s full capabilities were activated, like the full-feature emergency operations center but, in past reports to the Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors, the new building was prepared as they geared up for the possible impacts from Hurricane Florence in September of last year before the storm pivoted southward, shifting from what was expected to be a major impact with the Commonwealth. When discussing the assets built within the building, Adams believes the facility has everything it needs to be the life-saving resource to the county’s public safety community.
“I have built a house in my life,” he detailed. “I designed it on my own and I thought about it for months before building it over 20 years ago. Looking back on it now, I see some things I could have changed and any new building you have, hindsight is always 20/20. Here at this building, we have not experienced that yet. The architects that designed it, they remembered everything. There have been a few things we have had to tweak here and there, but nothing major.”
“As far as emergency situations or natural disaster, it is going to be great to have everyone in one room and on the same page,” Adams said. “When you have been around for 40 years and worked out of that old building, you get something new, you appreciate it.”
He also noted the community has embraced and regularly uses the safe meeting place outside of the building, which is marked by special signage and is videotaped 24 hours a day, allowing people to safely pick up goods after an online sale ads or exchange custody of children in a well-lit, monitored area.
“That space is used more than you would think,” Adams explained. “It is constantly under video surveillance in case something does happen. It is used a lot on the weekends and after-hours. It has been a great thing for us to have.”
He did say, the number of visitors stopping by his office has gone down some, noting some people may be a bit apprehensive about coming to the new building for a quick visit having never been there before.
“In the old building, people would drive by the sheriff’s office and see my vehicle outside, so they knew I was there,” Adams remarked. “They could just walk right in and see me, they didn’t have to be let in. When we first built the [new] building, I had a parking place in the back but, I moved it to the front so citizens could see when I was at the office. Everyone knows what I drive and I am an in-and-out person. I come into the office in the morning and have my meetings and do paperwork but, in the afternoons, a lot of the times, I am out in the county talking to citizens or checking into something they want me to look into.”
“All the citizens who have come in to tour the building and to visit me are appreciative of what the county built and most of them realized we needed this,” he said.
With the renovations at the former Pamplin Administration Building finished, it marks the end of the over $20 million government center project for the county, resulting in two brand-new, first-class facilities paired with modern renovations to previous work spaces, giving them new life. With these assets, Adams said he sees the county’s future being a bright one.
“I see this as this taking the same path as Chesterfield County but we are fortunate to have a board of supervisors in Dinwiddie County that controls growth and has the right growth coming into the county,” he remarked. “I think that is very important. I see Dinwiddie County doing nothing but moving forward.”