Mega medical industry Baxter International wants a Covington address, but that requires 616 residences in eastern Newton County to also have their addresses and ZIP code changed, and the Newton County Board of Commissioners is asking the residents who live in the area to please get on board.
The residents have been voting on the change via a U.S. Postal Service survey ballot that went out last week, and, so far, the results have been overwhelmingly against switching from a 30025 Social Circle ZIP code to a 30014 Covington ZIP code, U.S. Postal Service spokesman Michael Miles said in an email Thursday.
County officials had already heard the news, which is why the entire Newton County Board of Commissioners gave its official support to the project at Tuesday’s board meeting. District 1 Commissioner John Douglas, who would be affected by the change, originally said he wanted Baxter to have its requested address change, but he didn’t want the other residents to have to go through the hassle of changing their addresses.
However, when he found out the ZIP code change had to be all or nothing, he said Tuesday that he believes the county owes it to Baxter, which is opening a $1 billion plant in Stanton Springs industrial park, located at the intersection of Newton, Walton and Morgan counties.
Previously, Newton County Board of Commissioners voted last year to officially request the change with the postal service.
Miles confirmed an entire ZIP code must be changed at one time.
“ZIP codes are only split when the number of numerical combinations within the ZIP Code has reached its maximum,” Miles said.
In addition, there was consideration given to assigning the 1,620-acre Stanton Springs industrial park its own ZIP code, but Miles said the volume of mail would not justify a separate ZIP code.
A resident in the area called The News and said she had not received her survey from the post office.
Miles said any resident who has not yet received a survey should contact the local Covington postmaster at the Covington Carrier Annex at 678-342-6904.
All surveys must be postmarked by April 11. Because it was Newton County that requested the change, the surveys do not come with postage; respondents must provide their own stamps.
Douglas said the post office told him earlier this week that there were 450 surveys left to be turned in.
In their official correspondence and remarks, Baxter has always referred to Covington as the location of its plant even though Social Circle is geographically closer.
A Baxter spokeswoman said the company would not have an official response in time for this article.
While county officials lobby for the change, it’s unclear whether residents will be willing to do so. A resident who called The News said she was concerned about having to change over her mailing address for all of her bills, insurance policies, driver’s license, etc.
However, that was before it was known for sure there was no alternative available.
Douglas reached out to U.S. Rep. Paul Broun’s office to see if the congressman could help with a compromise, but Douglas reported Tuesday all alternative doors were firmly shut.
Douglas said there is precedence in a few other cases of Congress ordering the postal service to make a ZIP code change, but he said that would have to be done in the form of a local earmark, a mechanism Broun and the Republican-controlled house have agreed not to use.
Douglas and county Chairman Keith Ellis will be hosting a town hall meeting on the ZIP code change at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church, which is located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 278 and Ga. Highway 229; the church’s official address is 55 Ga. Highway 229, Social Circle.
Douglas said Thursday the town hall meeting would be the main way officials would try to spread the word.
“We’re certainly delighted to have Baxter in the community; it’s an earth-shaking development for us to get a company that size,” Douglas said Tuesday. “We all want to make them feel welcome. But the only way that we can give them a Covington address now is to vote for that. So, if you haven’t voted, I recommend that you vote for Covington and let’s put this behind us; let’s continue to be good neighbors with Baxter and move on from there.”
Sheriff Ezell Brown said the ZIP code change would help public safety officials be more efficient because they would know more quickly whether a particular address is in Newton County or Walton County. As it stands now, that Social Circle ZIP code extends to both counties. He said he didn’t see any downside to the change.