Tim­ber sale to help county cof­fers

The Covington News - - LOCAL - ROB DEWIG rdewig@cov­news.com

New­ton County officials plan to ask for bids on har­vest­ing tim­ber from 200 or so acres near the in­ter­sec­tion of Lower River Road and New Mote Road south of Cov­ing­ton.

The bids are to be let Aug. 29. The rea­son is sim­ple: Tim­ber, par­tic­u­larly hard­wood, is worth a lot right now.

“It’s re­ally, re­ally good, re­ally good,” said Mack Bar­ber, the tim­ber con­sul­tant hired by the county to man­age the sale.

County Com­mis­sion Chair­man Keith El­lis on Wed­nes­day said the county owns nu­mer­ous tracts, some large, some small, and has mostly al­lowed them to sit qui­etly, pay­ing noth­ing into the county’s cof­fers. County-owned land is not taxed.

“With hard­wood prices at their high­est peak ever,” it’s time to put that land to use, El­lis said.

The forests have been har­vested be­fore; old growth does not ex­ist around here. El­lis said reg­u­la­tions re­quire huge buf­fers of up to 200 feet along streams and around 100 feet from nearby homes, so the vis­ual im­pact should be neg­li­gi­ble.

Pro­ceeds from the sales will go into the county’s gen­eral fund and pay for var­i­ous county projects, El­lis said.

“The goal is to sell as much tim­ber at the right price,” he said. “The county has a treasure trove of prop­erty. It’s just about try­ing to come up with ad­di­tions to our bud­get with­out hav­ing tax dol­lars fund (all of) our projects.”

El­lis said some of the tracts the county owns won’t or can’t be har­vested for their tim­ber, ei­ther be­cause of lo­ca­tion or be­cause the forests aren’t right for it; on some tracts, the trees just aren’t old enough.

The largest sin­gle tract owned by the county — the land to be in­un­dated by the Bear Creek Reser­voir – can’t be har­vested yet, ei­ther, be­cause of the on­go­ing per­mit­ting process with state and fed­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal agen­cies.

“Mainly, we just have to go in and see which ar­eas can bring rev­enue to New­ton County” with­out hurt­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, he said.

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