DOBSON — A summertime shuffle is underway in Dobson, where Surry County governmental departments are moving to new locations as part of an overall effort to tighten security.
This includes the departure in the coming days of the county tax and board of elections offices from the lower level of the Surry judicial center in the middle of town to a new location at 915 E. Atkins St. This is the former site of the Just Save grocery store, and earlier Lowes Foods.
That space at Dobson Plaza has been undergoing a renovation project which has included a new name being assigned to the former commercial facilities, the Surry County Government Service Center.
Efforts are now underway to relocate both the tax and elections offices there in the coming days.
“This move is scheduled to take place the first two weeks in July and we will be open for business at the new location on July 16,” county Elections Director Susan Jarrell explained.
The new tax and elections offices are positioned alongside each other in Dobson Plaza, which Jarrell says will provide amenities for the public as well as the staffs of those departments.
“At the new location, the tax office will have a drive-through window,” she said Friday of one convenience to result. “This is a huge plus.”
The new location also is more spacious than the area being vacated, including additional parking to accommodate citizens casting ballots during early voting periods that can produce crowds.
“There have been days when parking was certainly an issue,” the elections director said in comparing availability at the new location with that of the judicial center.
She further said it will include more storage place for equipment and supplies vital to the electoral process, including voting machines.
“There is also a large, large meeting room at the new facility,” Jarrell said.
More county operations, such as soil and water, are expected to be relocated there in the coming months in addition to the space renovated to accommodate the tax and elections offices.
“At this point, that is all that has been completed at this site,” Jarrell said.
“The rest of the building will be ready around October,” County Manager Chris Knopf said Friday.
Related moves occurring
While the growth of county government is necessitating more space and relating shuffling, a desire to make the county judicial center safer is largely behind what’s occurring now.
“The primary reason we wanted to get tax and elections out of the judicial center was security,” Knopf said.
While the main entrance to that facility, which includes courtrooms, is equipped with metal detectors, a back door exists on the lower level of the building for people visiting the tax and elections departments. Though this is convenient for the public, it does pose a security breach.
Knopf said the changes will serve to funnel everyone coming to the judicial center through the front entrance, thus eliminating the use of the back door. “It won’t be a public access.”
The shuffling of local offices also involves consolidating court and law enforcement functions in the judicial center.
This is to include the district attorney’s office moving to the space being vacated by the tax department, while personnel of the Surry County Sheriff’s Office will occupy the former elections office facilities.
The county manager’s and other offices will relocate to the renovated historic courthouse in Dobson Town Square after it is vacated by the district attorney staff.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.