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County legal costs down; see breakdown
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Newton County is cutting back everywhere, including spending $300,000 less in legal costs this year to date.

The county paid County Attorney Tommy Craig's office $205,326 from January 2011 to May 2011, according to a report provided to the board of commissioners Tuesday by Craig.

The county paid Craig's office $502,034 for the first five months of 2010, county attorney Jenny Carter said in a followup email.

The largest cost so far in 2011 is $69,278 for general county legal work, including attending board meetings and work sessions, reviewing contracts and agreements and reviewing open records requests, as well as working on SPLOST and census redistricting.

The county also spent $41,667 on work related to the future Bear Creek Reservoir, which is planned to be built in southern Newton County. The attorney's office continued to work on getting a permit for the reservoir, studying future water pipeline routes and assisting with condemning the property of Emmet Denby, the only owner who has refused to sell his property to the county for the reservoir.

There have been no major lawsuits, but several smaller ones costing between $45 and $1,282. The preparation of county ordinances, including adult entertainment, noise and soil erosion, cost $8,799.

The county attorney's office receives a monthly retainer of $1,200.

Commissioner Nancy Schulz had previously asked Craig to provide quarterly reports and was pleased with the savings.

"I commend this board and you (Craig) for holding our costs down," Schulz said at Tuesday's board meeting.

"Tommy's office has done a great job advising us on the front end to keep us out of trouble on the back end," Chairman Kathy Morgan said.

Newton County paid Craig's office more than $852,000 in fees during the 2010 calendar year, $758,215 in 2009 and $832,977 in 2008, according to county records.