By REID TUCKER
After only a few short months, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office’s (WCSO) new Paxton Substation is open for business.
Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson presided over a dedication ceremony announcing the completion of the new substation on Tuesday, March 29. Representatives of local governmental agencies and the community at large were invited to attend an open house tour of the new multi-use facility immediately following brief opening remarks.
Adkinson said part of the substation’s mission was to provide a link back to the agency’s information mainframe, enabling the building to be used as a field command center, if necessary. However, the main purpose of the substation was to give the sheriff’s office a more visible presence in Paxton and the larger north Walton community.
“It’s an anchor to the community,” he said. “It conveys a sense that [the WCSO] is a local establishment and that we provide these services to the community. The idea is to push the services out to the citizens, not make the citizens come to the services. We very much want to convey that sense of community-oriented policing.”
The 1,500 square-foot building contains space for two offices, an interview room and a conference room used for law enforcement operations. Adkinson elaborated on the multi-use nature of the facility, saying that it could be used by any number of civic organizations and constitutional offices, including the Walton County Property Appraiser’s Office and Tax Collector’s Office as well as whatever uses required of it by the Paxton Town Council. Additionally, special safety features included in the substation’s construction enable it to be used as a shelter in the event of inclement weather such as tornados and up to Category 3 hurricanes.
Even with these capabilities, the $117,500 building came in significantly under the $160,000 amount budgeted for construction and was completed ahead of time as well. Furthermore, Adkinson said “zero taxpayer dollars” were used in the project, as the total funds needed came from assets seized by the WCSO during criminal investigations.
“I look at it as a return on an investment and as making good on a promise,” Adkinson said. “We said that we would seize assets and go after criminals. This was a great opportunity to take money generated from criminal activity and give it back to the community. I looked at this as a long term investment. This is something that will be here past my tenure in office and is something the people will get continual use out of.”
The WCSO initially discussed whether it was better to remodel the old Paxton Substation, which had been in operation in various capacities since the early 1960s, or to construct a new building entirely. It was eventually decided that it was more cost-effective to build a new facility from the ground up as that would allow it to more easily adhere to modern regulations regarding handicap access, security and building codes while providing a full range of services to Paxton residents. The Paxton Town Council unanimously approved the WCSO’s plan late last year and a few months later construction was completed.
While funds are currently unavailable for staffing a full-time receptionist or clerk at the substation, networking back to the WCSO main office will give residents access to the full range of services provided. The substation will eventually be used as the home base of a property investigator and deputies on patrol will be able to use it as a waypoint while working in the north end of the county.
Paxton Mayor Hayward Thomas, who also spoke at the dedication ceremony, expressed his satisfaction with the new substation, saying it met a longstanding need in the community. In fact, he liked the substation so much that he jokingly suggested a trade between the city of Paxton and Walton County.
“It’s a great building and a great asset to the city of Paxton,” Thomas said. “I told the sheriff we’re probably going to try to move City Hall up here and move [the WCSO] down there to the City Hall building because this place is so nice.”