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Newton Sheriff's Office western precinct expected to open in March

Plans are to have the new western precinct at 3665 Salem Road, Suite C, open in March. The office is strategically located in the western portion of the county near the intersection with Kirkland Road and will offer convenience to the citizens and help ensure quicker response time from the NCSO. - Staff photo by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Plans are to have the new western precinct at 3665 Salem Road, Suite C, open in March. The office is strategically located in the western portion of the county near the intersection with Kirkland Road and will offer convenience to the citizens and help ensure quicker response time from the NCSO. - Staff photo by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Sheriff's Office western precinct at 3665 Salem Road is projected to open sometime in March, but particulars of the scope of the operation are up in the air due to budget restraints, according to NCSO spokesman Capt. Keith Crum.

"We're doing what we can with what we've got," he said. "It's just taking a little time to get the phone lines and computer lines up."

Crum said it remained to be decided what hours the precinct will be open and what services will be offered due to the shortage of manpower available.

The office is located in a shopping center at the intersection of Salem and Kirkland Roads and a five-year lease agreement has been signed as of Oct. 1, 2012, with the first rent payment of $1,950 payable in December. According to the agreement with landlords, rent will increase incrementally over the lease term to a high of $2,100 per month by the end of the term. Utility costs were estimated to average between $300 and $500 a month.

The total cost of the lease and utilities over the five-year lease period is an estimated $42,000.

Funding for the rent and utilities will come from forfeited drug funds, according to the report Sheriff Ezell Brown gave to the Newton County Board of Commissioners late last year when he asked permission to open the precinct. At that time, he said there was more than $89,000 in local and federal forfeited funds on hand.

Brown said administrative staff would be transferred to the annex and the Sheriff's Office already has the needed furniture.

More than 80 percent of the NCSO's call volume is from the western side of the county, according to Brown, and he said eventually, the annex location on Salem Road will help the Sheriff's Office shorten response time to that area.

Also, Brown said the annex will be beneficial for citizens who currently "have to drive 20 miles across town just to pick up reports."

Citizen reporter Crystal Tatum contributed to this story.