COVINGTON, Ga. – Three Newton County public safety agencies this week presented their placement on the list of projects to be funded if voters renew the county’s SPLOST in November.
On Monday, May 9, leaders from the Newton County Sheriff’s Office and Fire and Animal Services asked the county’s SPLOST Oversight Committee to recommend millions of projects to Newton County Commissioners – who will have the final word on what is included.
• Sheriff Ezell Brown asked the committee for up to $24.5 million to repair or replace a dilapidated building, 161 new replacement vehicles, a new mobile command unit and a replacement HVAC system for the detention center.
• Fire Chief Mike Conner has requested $8.9 million for the renovation of a donated building in West Newton that would create a new No. 5 fire station and the construction of a new No. 1 fire station for move it from its current location on the Covington Bypass and serve more residents of unincorporated Newton.
• Director of Animal Services, Cynthia Wiemann, asked the committee to recommend $1.075 million to upgrade her animal shelter on Lower River Road.
The SPLOST Oversight Committee began meeting twice a week this month to hear applications from county government departments and area nonprofits to be included for funding.
The committee is to make a recommendation to the council of commissioners by the end of this month on what should be included on the list. The board will then approve the committee’s recommendations or make changes before approving a final list of projects for voters.
The Animal Services Department’s request was for improvements that would be the second phase of the shelter renovations funded by the 2017 SPLOST funds.
Wiemann said the phase two expansion would include building eight double-sided kennels to house 16 dogs; an air-conditioned indoor storage room; and approximately 450 square feet of new office space.
Conner said the donated building on 1.7 acres at 2707 Access Road near the Rockdale county line was built for the Georgia Forestry Service.
He said $4.6 million of his total request would be used to renovate the building into a fire station that would be manned 24 hours a day.
Conner said he could also reduce home insurance premiums for area residents because it would be closer to them than the Oxford and South West Newton stations that now serve the area.
Conner also said a new $1.6 million fire truck with aerial apparatus would be stored at the new station for use in high-rise and industrial buildings around the county.
Moving Station No. 1 would more effectively serve residents in unincorporated parts of central Newton than its current location – which is closer to Covington residents already served by the city’s fire department, he said. declared.
Brown said his request was in part for capital needs that he said were long overdue.
The largest project in his total application was for the renovation or relocation of the building housing the Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit and the morgue used by the Coroner.
Brown posted photos he said showed mold in the ceiling of the building on Stallings Street near downtown Covington.
“It is a danger for all of us who work in the region,” he said.
Brown said he wanted either $9.4 million to renovate and upgrade the existing building — including the removal of molded areas — or $15.29 million to construct a new building on land owned by the county adjacent to the Sheriff’s Office headquarters on Alcovy Road.
About $7.14 million of Brown’s total request would be used to purchase 161 new patrol vehicles to replace the sheriff’s office’s aging fleet.
He said 185 of the sheriff’s office’s 236 vehicles are high-mileage cars and SUVs, many with 200,000 miles or more.
Brown said the use of high-mileage vehicles was a safety issue for MPs.
Brown said he has made it a priority to purchase new replacement vehicles each year and typically receives funding for around six in the county government’s annual budget – far less than needed.
“I don’t have the key to this purse,” Brown said.
A new HVAC system was needed to replace the one that heats and cools the detention center and “failed us many times,” Brown said.
Additionally, a mobile command unit was needed to replace a trailer the sheriff’s office now uses as a satellite office during natural disasters and other major events, he said.
A new command unit could also be used by other government agencies and the Red Cross when needed, he said.
Newton County voters will be asked in the Nov. 8 general election ballot to renew SPLOST — which is a 1% sales tax that voters have renewed every six years since the 1990s.
SPLOST 2023 is expected to produce approximately $108 million over its six-year lifespan, if approved.
The county government entered into negotiations with the six Newton County municipal governments about the percentages of funds each would receive if SPLOST were renewed. If the current split is used, the county would receive approximately $80 million.
SPLOST was used for the construction and renovation of county government buildings, the judicial center and the purchase of equipment for the sheriff’s office and other entities.