Cramped space

Construction workers are currently using offices that prosecuting attorneys once used during a renovation project at the Christian County Justice Center in Ozark.

They investigate some of the worst events in Christian County.

The detectives in the Christian County Sheriff’s Office work in a cramped space in the basement of the Christian County Justice Center in Ozark. It was built to be a training room for deputies to use, but it has functioned as office space for the past 15 years. More desks have been wedged into corners over time, adding up to six detectives sharing the room.

A renovation project in the Justice Center will soon afford the detectives more room to work. It will also give them privacy to handle sensitive cases, interview victims and witnesses and concentrate on their high-stakes duties.

“All of the detectives are in there together trying to process all of their evidence and other things in that one office, and it becomes very, very distracting and hard to work,” Christian County Sheriff Brad Cole said.

Cole said that investigators will perform their jobs at a higher level once the new offices are open.

“When you have your own personal space and own office, you don’t have interruptions. You’re able to actually have victims come to your office and have a private meeting with them, and be able to sit down and discuss their case with them,” Cole said.

Currently, two of Christian County’s detectives are forced to operate in offices off-site, simply due to space limitations in the sheriff’s office. Cole said the Ozark R-VI School District and OTC Richwood Valley have both been gracious in offering space to detectives at times.

“They work out of their car and they work out of other offices that we utilize,” Cole said.

What was once the Christian County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will become the detectives’ area. It will approximately triple the workspace where detectives currently work.

“We’re able to make eight designated offices where each deputy will have their own private office up there, and a conference and meeting room,” Cole said, “which will greatly increase efficiency and work productivity.”

An area where the prosecutor once had cubicles and file cabinets is being changed into smaller, individual offices. Spots where high-ranking assistant prosecuting attorneys had offices will also become detectives’ offices.

“Basically, just the building of three walls and a separation wall to add three offices to an open area space, moving a few lights—and that’s basically it,” Cole said. “Nothing extravagant, just kind of bare bones, what we need to operate and make it good for efficient work to be done.”

The new offices for detectives are part of a larger plan to renovate the Justice Center.

In April, the Christian County Commission discussed the budget for renovations working off estimated cost of $184,627 to renovate the Christian County Justice Center in order to accommodate desired changes for the Christian County Circuit Clerk’s Office and the Christian County Sheriff’s Office.

The commissioners pledged to watch the spending carefully as renovations occur. If necessary, Phillips pledged there would be sacrifices if necessary to get new workspace for detectives.

“I just want the record to reflect that if we can only do a partial renovation, than my position is that offices for the criminal investigators be priority No. 1,” Phillips said. “There’s wants and there’s needs, and there is definitely a need, a critical need for that.”

“I’d say the same thing,” Christian County Eastern Associate Commissioner Mike Robertson said.

So far, the project is on time and on budget.

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