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County moves forward with museum
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The Newton County Board of Commissioners moved forward with the restoration of the historic Brick Store building and approved several grants at Tuesday's meeting.

The board unanimously approved spending $189,000 of a previous $250,000 state grant for the restoration Brick Store, located on U.S. Highway 278 about half a mile east of the intersection of Ga. Highway 11. The low bid came in from John W. Spratlin & Son.

The Newton County Historical Society is the group that is providing the 20 percent match for the grant, but Newton County is the sponsor of the grant and has to approve officially any grant spending.

"I'm very pleased to see the restoration of the project," said Commissioner Mort Ewing, who made the motion to approve the spending. "I'm also very pleased with the staff on securing the project."

The Brick Store, built around 1821 and recognized as the county's oldest surviving building, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

The historical society has been working on turning the building into a museum celebrating the building's various historical uses as the county's first courthouse, a post office and a general store. However, the museum will focus on Brick Store's use as a major stagecoach stop during the mid-1800s; it was located on an old wagon path between Charleston, S.C., and New Orleans, La.

County landscape architect Debbie Bell is overseeing the restoration of the building and said it's been a long process.

"The TE (transportation enhancement grant) process is complex and requires a lot of documentation to ensure that there won't be negative impacts to the environment, historic resources and the community," Bell said.

Grants approved
The board approved a $6,000 grant from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to be used for an animal tagging program. The grant money will be used to cover the cost of an engraver machine, ID tags and collars.

The board also unanimously voted in favor of the accepting a $10,172 Drug Court Grant from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, and approved the sheriff's office acceptance of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program for $28,292 to purchase more supplies and equipment.

Other news
Commissioners also voted in favor of a revised engineering plan for repairs on High Point Forest Drive that will reduce the cost by $7,000 from the original, allocated budget of $22,000.

Also, in order to come into compliance with the new Georgia Open Records Act passed by the state this year, County Clerk Jackie Smith was named the official open records officer, though she already acted in that capacity previously. However, now all open records requests should be addressed to Smith.