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BOC summary: No action taken on moratorium or mosque
Demonstrators were on the Covington Square Tuesday evening.

The moratorium on permits for places of worship came to an end at midnight Sept. 20 after no action was taken by the Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) on the subject during or in the weeks leading up to Tuesday evening’s public meeting.

Groups protesting against a proposed mosque and demonstrating for it gathered on the Covington Square prior to the meeting at the Newton County Historic Courthouse. There was no item related to the mosque or moratorium on Tuesday night’s agenda.

However, members of those groups, including the militia group Georgia Security Force III, did not sway any action on the last day of the five-week moratorium that was unanimously agreed upon by the BOC on Aug. 16.

The moratorium, created by District 1 Commissioner John Douglas, was put in place after a 135-acre project for a proposed mosque, cemetery and possible school on Highway 162 and County Line Road was made public.

Douglas said he put the moratorium in place in order to prevent growth in his district, which encompasses the east and south ends of the county.

“I’ve done everything I can to slow this down,” Douglas said. “Sometimes you have to know when to say when. I hope everything works out and it is true what they say about being good neighbors, and if that is the case then there won’t be any problems.

No timber sales from Bear Creek

The BOC passed a motion to not approve the sale of timber in the proposed Bear Creek Reservoir basin Tuesday night.
The timber was proposed to be cut in order to raise money to go into the county’s revenues for fiscal year 2017.

However, Douglas made a motion to not approve the cutting and selling of hardwood lumber.

“I think cutting trees that take 25-50 to grow is not a good way to balance the budget or give Christmas bonuses or buy turkeys or whatever it is we do with these trees,” Douglas said.

District 5 Commissioner Levie Maddox seconded the motion, which passed 3-2 with District 2 Commissioner Lanier Sims and District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson voting against.

Following the vote, and a presentation by forester Mack Barber, during a work session earlier Tuesday night, District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz asked that a contract be put to bid for a county forester.

Barber has done work with the county previously but, according to Schulz, has not had to place a bid for that work.
Going forward forestry services will be put out to bid by the county after a motion passed unanimously Tuesday. Also, all work done by the forester will be done with a citizen committee appointed by each commissioner and the chair.

Jody Nolan honored

Jody Nolan received an Outstanding achievement Award for his 16 years of service as Risk Manager for Newton County.

Jody is one of around 600 employees we have, who are outstanding people throughout our county we rely on every day,” Chair Keith Ellis said. “All of them deserve some kind of recognition. Jody has been put in the trenches for some time.”

Suicide Awareness month

A suicide awareness month event, hosted by View Point Health, will take place on the Covington Square Thursday at 10:30 a.m.

In Newton County the suicide death rate among youth ages 10-24 is 8.9 percent, which is higher than the national average of 8.02 percent, according to View Point Health. Ellis said Newton County rates in the top three in suicide percentage in the state of Georgia.

“Life is worth living,” Ellis said. “This is a good community. Yes we have a lot of things going on here but this is a great community.”

Cell tower approved

The board approved the building of a telecommunications tower on part of 22 acres of land owned by JC Flex LLC in Stanton springs.

The tower will be 250 feet tall, requiring approval from the county’s zoning department.

Douglas made the motion for approval, seconded by Maddox, and agreed on unanimously.

Adult day care to expand

A building that was zoned as single family residential was approved for a change to office institutional for use as an adult daycare. The business, owned by Fay Laing, submitted a change in zoning request to the planning commission in order to increase business to suit more individuals.

When Schulz recommended that traffic concerns on the intersection of Jack Neely and Kirkland roads, where the adult day care is located, be looked at, Ellis proposed a roundabout.

The idea of a roundabout at that intersection was greeted favorably by the commissioners.

Schulz made the motions, which were approved unanimously to change the zoning, update the land use map and agree on a conditional use permit for the business not to exceed 25 occupants.

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” to film at Gaither

The board approved a request Tuesday night for Fox Pictures to film a scene for the movie “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” at Gaither Plantation. The approval was required in order for Fox to move a grain silo for filming, and then return the silo to its original location after filming.

The motion was added to the agenda, due to Fox needing to film before the board’s next scheduled meeting on Oct. 4.

County sticks with One Beacon

One Beacon will continue to provide the county with Liability Insurance after an approval from the BOC Tuesday night.

The insurance, at a cost of $503,533, will cover all county assets, with the exception of fire equipment. That total is up from 2015-16 when the cost was $494,201. According to Nolan, the cost has increased due to the fact that the county has 35-40 more vehicles than a year ago.

Henderson made the motion to approve the insurance contract, which was unanimously approved.