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County seeks space shortage solution

There are signs that some St. Charles County government offices may be running out of room for storing data and evidence in criminal cases, training employees and dealing with emergencies.

Jennifer George, the county’s assistant director of administration, said those signs include using three semi-truck trailers for evidence storage behind the Sheriff’s Department’s offices off T.R. Hughes Drive in O’Fallon.

Those signs also include not having enough meeting room space for the county’s emergency operations center in the basement of the county Justice Center in St. Charles. Parking is limited and space is at a premium for representatives from emergency responders from multiple jurisdictions who meet there to respond to events such as tornados or other emergencies. Plus, there isn’t space for a media room to hold news conferences, she said.

And George said there was an added issue – prisoners in the county jail upstairs haven’t made life pleasant in the basement.

“Jail inmates sometimes like to cause problems and what we’ve found a lot recently is that they clog up the toilets intentionally to cause some mischief,” George told the St. Charles County Council at their meeting on Sept. 8.

George briefed the council about efforts to develop options for dealing with these and other space-related issues involving the emergency operations center, dispatching at the county’s Dispatch and Alarm Center in Wentzville, the county’s new emergency radio system, and operations within the Sheriff’s Department, including its cyber crime unit.

In July of 2013, the county hired a consulting firm, Ross & Baruzzini, to design a data center in the county administration building in St. Charles for the county’s new emergency radio system. The firm also examined space issues and gathered information for a master plan for using about 10 acres of vacant property the county has adjacent to the Sheriff’s Department offices.

“We’re at the ground floor right now,” George said in a later interview, noting that there are no specific plans on how the property might be used.

Four of the 10 acres were acquired this year. The county will have to look at what it can afford and how to finance any improvements, she said.

The county has been trying to take measures including finding room in the county administration building for its new emergency radio system, asking the county prosecuting attorney’s office to get rid of evidence no longer needed, moving equipment to other locations, and even capping and relocating pipes to prevent a flooded Justice Center basement.

But some of those measures, particularly the emergency radio data center, may be only a temporary solution, George said.

Much of the reason for the lack of space is a growing county whose population generates more data that requires more storage, and more room for training and meeting space, she said.

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