Several Newton County commissioners used the first business meeting following the adoption of a controversial budget to speak about the future of the county and the need to plan strategically for its growth.
Chairman Keith Ellis offered Tuesday to reschedule the cancelled January retreat, an offer that was seized on by Commissioner Nancy Schulz, who spoke of the need to return to the strategic planning process and start planning the budget earlier in the year.
Commissioner Levie Maddox also spoke about the need to invest in the county after he and the other commissioners who voted in favor of the budget faced criticism from citizens who were angry over the tax hike.
“We, as leaders, need to be looking down the road and planting seeds of prosperity as we go,” Maddox said. “The previous generation of elected leadership was wise enough to help handle our needs and add a few wants through courage.”
He went on to list the infrastructure and facilities built under previous boards, including Lake Varner, Turner Lake Park, the bypass road, renovation of the Historic Courthouse, Stanton Springs and Bear Creek.
“There were many other tough choices that were made in order to provide for our community, although most were highly unpopular at the time,” said Maddox, who has faced criticism along with the other commissioners who voted for the budget and tax increase.
Maddox urged the county to update its code and regulations, including alcohol ordinances, pass the Brickstore overlay, promote economic development, and continue to pursue the civil center, which he asked be added to the next agenda.
Commissioner J.C. Henderson noted that the county still has not come up with a plan to raise money for upgrades to the landfill. He also spoke about the poor conditions at the animal shelter and the need to address them.
Commissioner John Douglas addressed a Channel 11 story about a Facebook post he wrote that used derogatory racial language. He apologized in advance, saying his comments were "beneath his dignity."
Separately, Schulz took a stand on the check registry, refusing to approve it due to the inclusion of an invoice from county attorney Tommy Craig for 7.7 hours of research on the telecommunications act. Schulz said she would not approve any more check registries as long as a scope of work was not required.
Craig defended the billing, blaming Schulz's alleged failure to communicate over a proposed cell phone tower.
The county also heard from Ronnie Cowan, chair of the citizen panel on form of government, who presented the panel’s final report.
The board voted to approve an eight-year lease of the Cousins Community Center for emergency services and other departments.
The board approved two separate contracts with Harbin engineering for solid waste consulting and environmental monitoring.
The board approved several temporary trailers in the Brickstone, Regency Place, and Iris Brook subdivisions while the developer builds model homes there.
The board honored the All Stars Dixie Boys baseball team, which will represent Georgia in a championship in North Carolina.
The Sheriff’s Office was also honored by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.