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Local officials hopeful about future growth
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At a "State of the County Breakfast" sponsored by the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce Wednesday morning, local officials were largely optimistic when speaking about the county's progress and plans for future growth.

Held at the Dekalb Tech campus on Bob Williams Parkway, the breakfast attracted a large crowd of people who listened attentively to status reports on county, education, municipal, crime, fire services and water services growth.

The county's water supply was obviously pressing on Chairman Aaron Varner's mind. In mid-August, as a result of low reservoir levels in City Pond and Lake Varner, the county went beyond Georgia Environmental Protection Division restrictions previously in place by limiting outdoor watering to one night a week for residents.

According to a release from the Newton County Water Resources Department the county has a water supply of 180 days left.

Varner said the importance' of the county's water supply could not be underestimated and predicted in the near future local governments in the metro Atlanta area would battle with one another for control of water resources which will be vital to sustaining existing and expanding populations.

 On a positive note Varner highlighted the county's new $9 million administration building which will house nine county departments when it is full. A ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony is planned for Oct. 28. Lt. Governor Casey Cagle is expected to attend.

"All in all, I think we're in very good shape and we will continue to work to remain ahead of the curve," Varner said.

Compared to the other participants, Newton County School System Superintendent Dr. Steven Whatley is perhaps under the most pressure. With 899 students added to the county's school system within one year, Whatley said the system was hard pressed to find room for all of the new students before even getting to the issue of educating them.

At the request of the Newton County Board of Education, a special referendum will be held on Sep. 18 for residents to vote on two items: the extension until 2014 of the one-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and the continuance of the one mil debt service until 2025 on the issuance of general obligation bonds.

NCSS will use the revenues from these two items to fund the expansion of the school system including the building of a fourth high school, two middle schools and four elementary schools among other things.

Whatley said it was up to county residents to take action to ensure the proper education of the county's youth in light of $1.5 billion in education cuts by the state in fiscal year 2006.

Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce President John Boothby announced at the breakfast that the chamber's Board of Directors had recently voted in favor of supporting both measures.