Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown flanked by many dignitaries and well-wishers officially cuts the ribbon opening the Sheriff's Office Westside Precinct Tuesday Morning. The facility is on Salem Road, directly across from the Kroger store, and will be open for business Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - Staff photos by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
COVINGTON -- A large crowd of dignitaries, elected officials and well-wishers gathered Tuesday morning for ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the new Newton County Sheriff's Office Westside Precinct at 3665 Salem Road.
The precinct will be managed by NCSO Lt. Thomas Kunz and Deputy Douglas Donihe, who will be on duty there from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for citizens to come and file complaints, pick up copies of incident reports, or simply to ask questions. The phone number is 770-788-7812.
"I think it will be a great benefit to the department and the citizens," Donihe said.
The crowd was welcomed to the new facility by NCSO Capt. Mark Mitchell and Newton County Commission Chairman Keith Ellis.
Ellis praised the efforts by Sheriff Ezell Brown and his staff to establish a presence on the western side of the county, citing outstanding leadership and the fact that they are making a difference in the fight against crime.
He said he foresaw that the precinct would lessen response times and just seeing the NCSO emblem would be a crime deterrent.
NCSO Chaplain David Moody conducted the invocation and the presentation of colors was made by the NCSO Honor Guard which led in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Guest speakers for the event were County Commissioners of District 2 and 3 Lanier Sims and Nancy Schulz, whose districts are in western Newton County.
A Newton County native, Sims said he'd watched the area grow from pastures to overcrowded highways and from a population of 4,000 to 5,000 to 40,000 and that has brought about many challenges.
He acknowledged that the county was unable to give Sheriff Brown "proper funding to do everything he'd like to do," but he said the sheriff found a way by "going outside the box," and he cited the example of not hiring contractors for the work of refurbishing the precinct, but doing the work "in house."
"All citizens, not just this community, should be extremely happy this precinct is here," he said.
Schulz said it was a great day to see the opening of the Westside Precinct and it was something that had been in the works for some time.
She commended Brown and his deputies for the hard work they've done to build relationships with members of the community.
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart," she said.
Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, former Commission Chair Kathy Morgan recalled that in one of her first conversations with Brown after the two were elected to office was concerning his desire to not have a divided county between east and west, but to have adequate law enforcement coverage for all areas of the county.
She said he wanted "boots on the ground," and part of that vision was to have a precinct available to the citizens of the western portion of Newton County. She pointed out that it was a 20-minute drive from Salem Road to NCSO headquarters on Alcovy Road and the new location would make life easier for many citizens.
Sheriff Brown spoke briefly to the crowds, informing them that the day marked a new era in law enforcement in Newton County, praising his staff for helping him have a stronger presence in the area.
"For once something good happened as a result of criminal activity," he quipped, telling the crowd the funding for the renovation and furnishing of the precinct was all from confiscated drug, dogfighting or gambling funds.
"Not one dollar of taxpayer's money was put into this precinct," he said.
According to NCSO records, to date $27,162.20 has been spent on the project, with some invoices still outstanding. The landlord of the facility, Health Club, LLC, has also donated a portion of the rent for the facility.