By: Matthew Christian, Morning News
FLORENCE— With the snip of a few pairs of golden scissors, the new Florence County Judicial Center was officially opened a few minutes after 11 a.m. Friday.
State Sen. Hugh Leatherman, 12th Circuit Court Judge Michael Nettles, County Councilman James Schofield and Master-in-Equity Haigh Porter spoke in a brief ceremony. Then Council Chairman Kent Caudle called city, county and state officials to the top step outside the entrance and counted down to the ribbon cutting.
“The citizens of Florence County now have a courthouse they can be proud of,” Leatherman said during his speech. “I see great nothing but great things for this county.”
The new building is on Irby Street, across from the Florence County Complex. It opened March 5 after county officials and workers moved in.
The idea for a new judicial center for Florence County was originally Judge Ralph King Anderson’s, according to Porter. Porter added that the new facility is the fourth courthouse in Florence County. The original building was built during the 1890s. That building was replaced during the 1930s, and facility currently in use opened in the 1960s.
The facility built during the 1930s had a major flaw: no air conditioning, which is not a good thing in the oppressive heat and humidity of South Carolina summers.
“They used to just throw the windows in the courtroom open in the summer,” said Porter, who worked as a young lawyer in the facility. “When a big truck went by you had to wait your turn to speak again.”
The facility built during the 1960s had air conditioning but was still not adequate so, Anderson’s idea was eventually embraced by Schofield and current County Administrator K.G. “Rusty” Smith.
“[Schofield] was like a bulldog with a bone,” Council Chairman Kent Caudle said as he introduced Schofield at the ceremony. “He wasn’t going to stop until the job was done. Well, now it’s done.”
Leatherman and Nettles also noted Schofield’s dedication to opening the facility.
Nettles added that he felt the facility represented Florence County’s continued commitment to the rule of law, the idea that laws, not arbitrary decisions, should govern society.
Also given credit during the speeches were designers Stevens and Wilkinson, Goforth and Brown, and Justice Planning Associates, contractor BE&K Building Group, the Judicial Facility Advisory Group of Schofield, Nettles, former Clerk of Court Connie Reel-Shearin, Sheriff Kenny Boone and Suzanne King. Doris O’Hara, the current clerk of court, and Connie Haselden, clerk to the County Council, were also thanked.
The colors were presented by the Wilson High School Air Force JROTC and Jerrod Deas, director of music at Wilson, played the national anthem on his saxophone during the ceremony.