COVINGTON — The Newton County Sheriff’s Office held a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning for $2.9 million expansion of the Sheriff’s Office.

The project is being funded through the 2017 SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax). The expansion will encompass 145,000 square feet, including detention. It will add 7,000 square feet of administrative space and 3,000 square feet of training space. It is being built by Barnsley Construction Group. The project is expected to be completed within nine months, barring inclement weather.

At the groundbreaking, Sheriff Ezell Brown thanked the SPLOST Committee for ensuring that the Sheriff’s Office expansion was included in the projects list, and he thanked the citizens of the county for voting for the 2017 SPLOST.

Brown also thanked his employees for all the years they’ve spent being overcrowded in the current facility.

“This building was built back in 2004,” Brown said. “At the time when the building was constructed and we moved in, we had about 143 employees and the population of this county was about 72,000.

“Today we have doubled our employees and we’ve almost doubled in the population. The population today is a little over 115,000 according to the numbers, but I’d be willing to bet you that we have surpassed that. And our number of employees today has exceeded 300.”

Pastor Natalie Faulkner of Allen Memorial United Methodist Church gave the invocation. Before the prayer, she said she has a great love for law enforcement.

“Several members of my family are in law enforcement, including my little brother, who had over 20 years with DeKalb County Police,” Faulkner said. “I know from family what you experience, and I understand what your families go through when you’re not sure if you’ll come back the next day. We thank you for your service and for your families’ dedication.”

The NSCO Honor Guard presented the colors as those gathered recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

The guest speaker was J. Terry Norris, the executive director of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association. Norris said the people of Newton County are to be congratulated for electing leadership that puts the people first.

“It’s clear to communities throughout the nation, including Newton County, that our leadership doesn’t always agree,” Norris said. “But I can say with all seriousness that what I have witnessed first hand in Newton County is that the community has come together and elected good leadership, not only in the Sheriff’s Office, but also in the Board of Commissioners. It just seems like to me that in the end, you all always seem to come together. Whether you really agree or not, you do it for the people.”

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Senior Reporter

Born and raised in Decatur, Ga. Graduated from Shorter College in Rome, Ga. in 1979 with B.A. in Communications. Worked in community newspapers for 26 years. Started at Rockdale Citizen/Newton Citizen in January 2016.

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