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GBI seeks rezoning to build forensic crime scene garage

A new state-of-the-art forensic crime scene garage is planned for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Region 7 Office in Thomson.

But before that can happen, officials with the state law enforcement agency are going to need the help of members of the McDuffie County Board of Commissioners.

"We are asking the county to consider re-organizing the property line 80 feet over towards the Georgia State Patrol and 40 feet on the other side to Bob Kirk Drive so that we will be able to construct a garage on the property," GBI Inspector Fred F. Stephens asked commissioners during their meeting last Wednesday at the county courthouse in Thomson.

"We have already been parking on the GSP property and since it is a state agency, it didn't matter. But since we don't know the future plans for that property, we thought it better to have the deed. Of course, it's with the versionary clause to deed it back to the county if and when we move off the property."

Inspector Stephens said plans are to put the garage/lab behind the current building.

"We will just need the additional parking space because it will be used by other law enforcement agencies," Inspector Stephens said.

"So, we need to increase our parking space.

Commissioner Bill Jopling asked the GBI official, "Why do you need that property on the Bob Kirk Drive side?"

Inspector Stephens replied, "What happens is, for instance, in a drug bust, a tow truck will bring a vehicle in so that it can be processed for evidence. That side will give a tow truck access to the garage."

A forensic crime scene garage "will enhance investigative services to both the citizens of McDuffie County and surrounding areas, Inspector Stephens said.

The GBI has operated a field office in Thomson since 1973 -- 37 years.

"We value our long standing professional relationship with the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department and Thomson Police Department and believe those relationships continue to improve the quality of life for those we serve," Inspector Stephens pointed out in a recent letter to McDuffie County Manager Don Norton.

GBI Special Agent Steve Foster, who serves as the crime scene specialist for the GBI Region 7 Office, would have a safe, secure place to process crime scene evidence from vehicles, if this project moves forward.

Inspector Stephens said action was not immediately necessary from county commissioners.

"We just really wanted to inform them of our future plans, so that something might be worked out between now and then concerning our request," Inspector Stephens said in an interview with The McDuffie Mirror .

During last week's commission meeting, McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall noted that the new crime scene garage would "definitely be a benefit to law enforcement because usually what happens is they have to use our sally-port when there's a murder, because they have no enclosed facility. So this would speed things up and make it easier for all of us."

Inspector Stephens was joined by Jon Paget, chief of facilities and support operations for the GBI, as well as GBI Special Agent Pat Morgan, assistant agent in-charge of the local GBI office.

Web posted on Thursday, October 14, 2010

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