SPLOST moves for­ward to­ward March 15 vote

County at­tor­ney reap­pointed, county wins land­fill law­suit

The Covington News - - Front page - By Gabriel Khouli gkhouli@cov­news.com

The Newton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers unan­i­mously ap­proved a res­o­lu­tion Tues­day to call for a SPLOST spe­cial elec­tion on March 15.

The $57.6 mil­lion list was de­fined in slightly more de­tail in this fi­nal ap­proval, with District 4 im­prove­ments bro­ken out into $500,000 for recre­ation projects and $545,000 for a multi-use com­mu­nity cen­ter.

Com­mis­sioner Nancy Schulz voted for the list, but said she was vot­ing with the un­der­stand­ing that projects would be brought be­fore the board for con­sid­er­a­tion and ap­proval be­fore work could be­gin.

Com­mis­sioner J.C. Hen­der­son ques­tioned why this was nec­es­sary be­cause the list would be ap­proved by vot­ers, but Com­mis­sioner Mort Ewing said that is the way SPLOST has al­ways been han­dled dur­ing his time on the board. County At­tor­ney Tommy Craig said that the board reg­u­larly re-ex­am­ines projects to make sure no sig­nif­i­cant bud­getary or struc­tural changes need to be made.

Al­though the board ap­proved $1.1 mil­lion for District 4, this is the first list to break the money into sep­a­rate cat­e­gories. Hen­der­son pre­vi­ously pro­vided a spe­cific list of projects, in­clud­ing var­i­ous neigh­bor­hood parks, an in­di­gent ceme­tery and a com­bined home­less, work­force devel­op­ment and health cen­ter to be run by Newton County Min­is­ter’s Union. It re­mains to be seen what the money will fi­nally be used for if the 2011 SPLOST is passed.

The agri­cul­tural fa­cil­ity line was ex­panded to say “De­sign and Con­struc­tion of Agri­cul­tural Fa­cil­ity (in­clud­ing land pur­chase, if needed).”

Also Tues­day, the county re­ported that its 13-yearold law­suit to pre­vent a pri­vate land­fill from lo­cat­ing in Newton County was suc­cess­ful.

On Dec. 17, Su­pe­rior Court Judge Sa­muel D. Ozburn ruled in the county’s fa­vor, say­ing that a land­fill would have vi­o­lated the county’s zon­ing or­di­nance.

East Ge­or­gia Land and Devel­op­ment Com­pany owns 417 acres off Fire Tower Road, just south­west of the county’s cur­rent nearly 90-acre land­fill on Lower River Road.

In 1997 East Ge­or­gia Land re­quested a let­ter from the county stat­ing that East Ge­or­gia Land was per­mit­ted to de­velop a land­fill on its prop­erty, the first step in ap­ply­ing for a land­fill per­mit from the Ge­or­gia En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Di­vi­sion. The county re­fused to write a let­ter, cit­ing a 1985 zon­ing or­di­nance the county said pro­hib­ited the land­fill from be­ing built. The land is zoned Agri­cul­tural-Res­i­den­tial.

East Ge­or­gia Land sued the county to force it to write a let­ter. Ozburn ruled that the or­di­nance does not al­low land­fills in any zon­ing district.

The case was de­layed in part be­cause com­pan­ion law­suits were filed re­gard­ing the le­git­i­macy of the zon­ing or­di­nance and zon­ing maps. The Ge­or­gia Supreme Court ruled unan­i­mously in Newton County’s fa­vor in those cases in Jan­uary 2010.

Also Tues­day, Craig was unan­i­mously reap­pointed as county at­tor­ney a job he has held for 35 years.

Schulz re­quested that Craig’s of­fice pro­vide monthly or quar­terly con­sol­i­dated fi­nan­cial re­ports to the com­mis­sion­ers. Al­though the board re­ceives fi­nan­cial doc­u­ments from Craig’s of­fice, Schulz said she wanted a sin­gle piece of paper that con­tained all at­tor­ney’s fees.

“I think it’s im­por­tant for trans­parency sake that we have a con­sol­i­dated fi­nan­cial ac­count­ing of the le­gal ser­vices. From time to time there’s been ques­tions from the pub­lic and I think it would just be help­ful if on a quar­terly ba­sis you would pro­vide that from your of­fice,” Schulz said.

County Clerk Jackie Smith was also unani- mously reap­pointed.

The board also on Tues­day voted 4-1 to ap­prove a one-year, $98,463 con­tract re­newal with Dur­den’s Lawn Main­te­nance to pro­vide land­scap­ing ser­vices for county build­ings, in­clud­ing re­cy­cling cen­ters. Com­mis­sioner Schulz op­posed the agree­ment, be­cause she wanted to bid out the con­tract next year.

The agree­ment does not cover parks and recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties. The con­tract has four ad­di­tional op­tion years, which the board can vote to ap­prove or de­cline each year.

In ad­di­tion, the agree­ment was changed to add a 90-day writ­ten no­tice of can­cel­la­tion and a 60-day severance penalty if the con­tract was can­celled. The ma­jor­ity of the con­tract is cov­ered by the solid waste fund, with the re­main­ing $30,305 paid out of the gen­eral fund.

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