ST. GEORGE -- Sheriff's deputies will be the first new Dorchester County personnel to move into the old courthouse, as Dorchester County Council makes use of the vacated space to save money.

Council last week approved spending $1,100 to renovate a small portion of the century-old building in downtown St. George so the sheriff's department can move its upper county office from the crowded county detention center next door.

Architects recently told the county that the courthouse isn't as bad off as thought, has less asbestos and other hazardous material than expected, and that those hazards can be easily handled during renovations. They estimated the entire building could be renovated for less than $4 million.

Councilman George Bailey has pushed for renovating the courthouse in stages and using county workers, and moving some services such as social services, veterans services, pardon and parole or alcohol and drug services into it. Those services are now renting space.

The sheriff's office was an easy move, creating a little more space for jailers in the aging detention center, which occasionally holds more than 300 inmates in a facility built for half that number and has security problems and safety issues. The courthouse has been mostly vacant since a new facility was completed in 2009.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744.