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Covington council approves purchase for new CPD headquarters
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The city of Covington approved the purchase of the 13183 Harland Drive property Monday night for a new Covington Police Department headquarters. - photo by Jackie Gutknecht

COVINGTON, Ga. – The Covington Police Department will be calling a new location its home next year after the Covington City Council approved the purchase of a 25,850-square-foot building on a 4.96-acre piece of land for the new police department headquarters.

The purchase price of the property, located at 13183 Harland Drive in Covington, was $2,400,000. City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said the city allocated $3,800,000 in the 2017 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for public safety funding.

“It is no secret the current police facilities are in dire need of upgrade and expansion,” Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston said. “As calls for service increase, so does the need for additional officers and support services.

“We have been planning for this event for many years in an effort to ensure our police department remains on the cutting edge. I am thankful and proud of current and past city councils, our city manager and police chief for their vision and efforts to see this come to fruition.”

CPD Chief Stacey Cotton said the current police headquarters location is the former Covington City Hall building, which previously housed the Covington Fire Department, CPD, municipal court and city hall. Once Covington City Hall was relocated to its current location on Emory Street, CPD took over the building.

Cotton said CPD filled the building immediately, with about 60 employees at the time.

“The building served its purpose,” he said. “It was new and it was more room. I think we had 900 square feet prior to that, so it served our needs for probably 10 years, but then we started outgrowing it. As the city and county have grown, so has the need for more police officers.”

With the growth and continued caseload, Cotton said, the need for larger facilities has become apparent.

“Probably the biggest need is in evidence,” he said. “We have more than 16,000 pieces of evidence in our evidence locker. Some of that is, of course, new cases and ongoing cases, but some cases have retention rates on them, like murder cases – we have to keep that stuff for 50 years.”

With 2,110 square feet of warehouse space in the new building, which will be used for evidence storage, it will more than double the current space.

Cotton said the department has been looking for a new location for years and this piece of property seemed like a perfect fit.

“This building (the current headquarters) is about 9,000 square feet and that building is 25,850 square feet,” he said. “The building is very versatile in what we need. The footprint, we believe, is more than enough for what our current needs are and the ability for some future growth.”

Even though the department is moving to the north side of the city, Cotton said response times will not be affected.

“We deploy our officers in zones anyway and their job is to ride the zone the majority of the day,” he said. “Very rarely do they respond from the station to the scene.

“I think what people have to realize is, the headquarters is where the business operation is, not where the patrol part of it is.”

Cotton said he hopes to have the building move-in-ready in the Spring of 2019 after a renovation is done to modify the building for its new use.

“This is an office building and its great for an office, but we need more than that,” he said. “We just want to be able to serve the public and do the things that we need to do better and more efficiently and I think this building is a big step in that direction.”

Cotton said he is grateful for the council’s approval and excited to put the SPLOST dollars to work.

“I want to thank the Mayor and council for their overwhelming support on this project,” he said. “They’ve understood the need and that opportunity arose and they took advantage.

“The Covington Police Department has an international reputation of being the first in Georgia and 10th in the nation for being internationally accredited and for being a highly professional, highly trained and highly dedicated police department,” he said. “The men and women who need to be able to come in off the street and feel safe for the moments where they can take a break, they deserve an environment that is supportive of the job that they do and I believe this building and the vision of the Mayor and council and the city manager will give us that.”