District 3 candidates weigh in

Hope­fuls own busi­nesses, dif­fer on eco­nomic is­sues

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Rachel Oswald

Demo­crat Nancy Schulz and Repub­li­can Keith Mitcham have a lot in com­mon — they are both the own­ers of small busi­nesses in District 3 and both stress the im­por­tance of fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity — but they dif­fer in their views on how to bring more busi­ness to New­ton County.

Mitcham and Schulz are both seek­ing to take over District 3 Com­mis­sioner Ester Flem­ing’s seat on the Board of Com­mis­sion­ers when he va­cates it at the end of the year.

While Schulz, the co-owner of The Oaks Golf Course, em­pha­sizes the need for New­ton County to be­come more friendly and pro-busi­ness, Mitcham, the owner of the Mitcham Cat­tle Com­pany, a 1,000 cat­tle stocker op­er­a­tion, said he thinks District 3 needs to guard against be­com­ing like Rock­dale County with its un­re­strained com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment.

The two candidates’ civic or­ga­ni­za­tion mem­ber­ships also shed light on the dif­fer­ing views they each have of what is good de­vel­op­ment for the county. Schulz has been en­dorsed by the New­ton County Home­builders As­so­ci­a­tion and is an ac­tive mem­ber of the Cov­ing­ton/New­ton County Cham­ber of Com­merce. Mitcham serves on the New­ton County Farm Bureau’s board of direc­tors and is chair­man of the bureau’s leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee.

“We need to em­brace busi­nesses that want to lo­cate here,” Schulz said, adding that the county could do more

The timeline for the com­ple­tion of all crit­i­cal projects is 2020. The CTP is ex­pected to guide the county through 2030.

The CTP has 35 gen­eral road­way ca­pac­ity projects, in­clud­ing all of the crit­i­cal need projects, with a to­tal price tag of $848.4 mil­lion. There are also four bridge re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and bridge re­place­ment projects in the plan with a to­tal price tag of $19.9 mil­lion.

Al­ter­na­tive trans­porta­tion did re­ceive at­ten­tion in the CTP. Tran­sit fa­cil­i­ties and tran­sit equip­ment would re­ceive $8.1 mil­lion and bike and pedes­trian fa­cil­i­ties would re­ceive $900,000 un­der the plan’s guide­lines.

One project in the plan is a tran­sit-ex­press bus ser­vice to At­lanta. The project would call for the ex­pan­sion of the Park and Ride lot, lo­cated near the en­trance to In­ter­state 20 exit 90 on U.S. High­way 278, as well as the ad­di­tion of a new Park and Ride lot at the planned West Cov­ing­ton By­pass In­ter­change.

The ex­press bus would of­fer a ser­vice sim­i­lar to that cur­rently of­fered by the Xpress bus ser­vice in Rock­dale County.

Much of the fund­ing for th­ese projects is ex­pected to come from the Ge­or­gia Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, which is in the mid­dle of a se­ri­ous bud­get crunch that has re­sulted in the post­pone­ment and/or scrap­ping of bil­lions of dol­lars in road projects across the state. Lo­cal fund­ing for projects in the CTP will also come from im­pact fees and the Spe­cial Pur­pose Lo­cal Op­tion Sales Tax.

In Jan­uary, the Ge­or­gia Gen­eral As­sem­bly is ex­pected to once again take up a trans­porta­tion fund­ing pro­posal — the Trans­porta­tion Lo­cal Op­tion Sales Tax— which­would al­low coun­ties to band to­gether in dis­tricts to ap­prove the set­ting of a spe­cial tax to fund trans­porta­tion projects in their re­gions. The T-LOST nar­rowly failed this year for lack of ap­proval in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

County Chair­man Aaron Varner said he plans to hold a meet­ing af­ter the Novem­ber elec­tion with all of the newly elected county of­fi­cials to dis­cuss the CTP and which projects they will pur­sue and in which or­der.

“All we’re do­ing is ap­prov­ing the con­cept,” said Varner of the CTP’s Tues­day ap­proval.

In writ­ing the CTP, URS held sev­eral meet­ings through­out the last year for com­mu­nity stake­hold­ers, elected of­fi­cials and the pub­lic to seek their in­put and to pro­vide them with up­dates on the plan.

URS also re­lied on tech­ni­cal data, land use and de­vel­op­ment trends, re­gional travel de­mand model as­sess­ments and road­way poli­cies.



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