A first step for the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority (WSA) to purchase the county’s water infrastructure was taken Tuesday night.
The Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved 4-1 during its regular meeting, with District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson dissenting, to write a letter of intent to the WSA to discuss the sale of the county’s water infrastructure resources.
The letter allows the WSA to move forward in hiring an appraiser to review the county’s water assets.
The WSA will now hire a firm to do an evaluation and proposal of the county’s water infrastructure. The WSA will provide the county the name of the company for approval.
If the county cannot agree with who will do the evaluation of assets, the WSA will not go any further. If the county agrees, the WSA will use the valuation to make an offer on the county’s water assets.
Lloyd Kerr appointed county manager
Lloyd Kerr was officially named Newton County’s Manager Tuesday.
Kerr, who has served as Interim County Manager since Jan. 7, was hired full-time after a 3-2 vote by the BOC.
District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz made the motion to hire Kerr, with District 1 Commissioner John Douglas seconding the motion.
“Over the past 10 months we have witnessed his style of one of being willing to hear all perspectives yet not one to conform to the status quote but one he believes is right for Newton County,” Schulz said. “I have seen he is precisely the right person for the job.”
Along with the vote of confidence in Kerr’s performance, Schulz also listed continuity as a reason for hiring Kerr as county manager.
“On January 1, we begin a new form of government,” Schulz said. “We also begin the new year with two new commissioners and a new chair. The first year will be a steep learning curve for new commissioners. There will also be a learning curve adapting to the new form of government. We cannot afford to have the role of county manager in limbo. It is not good governance.””
District 2 Commissioner Lanier Sims was one of two commissioners to vote against Kerr’s appointment. Sims said he could not support the motion because the procedure to interview candidates and vet managers was not done.
Kerr was one of four candidates to apply for the county manager position in December but withdrew his name. The former Development Services Director, however, agreed to step into the role on an interim basis.
Since then he has built a strong relationship with the county chair, according to Keith Ellis, who said: “Lloyd is doing an outstanding job.”
Kerr’s salary did not change with the appointment and there is not a length of service laid out in his contract with the county.
Douglas presents cemetery ordinance
District 1 Commissioner John Douglas asked the county’s planning commission to review a cemetery ordinance that would require a waterproof casket or vault for burial in the county.
Douglas presented the burial ordinances from Macon-Bibb County, which enacted the ordinance in response to flooding that occurred at Rose Hill Cemetery in the early 1990s.
The request to review the county’s burial ordinance comes less than two months after a proposed mosque and Islamic cemetery in Newton County were made public. According to the Islamic customs, the dead is to be buried “green” or without a casket or vault.
Douglas stated Tuesday that he brought Macon-Bibb County’s ordinance to staff’s attention “to protect the health and safety of Newton County citizens.”
“There have been those who claim that tightening up these proposals will have the effect of banning green burials,” Douglas said.” That’s not true. They will make them safer while protecting our environment as we continue to grow.”
New zoning coming out of moratorium
Newton County Development Services will provide the BOC with recommendations to the county’s zoning ordinance in November. The recommendations are in response to a moratorium placed on permits for places of worship following the announcement of a 135-acre proposed mosque in August.
Kerr briefed the board on revisions that have been brought up by staff.
Among the revisions is a new zoning classification for developments of community impact.
“One of the things that became very clear during this is that the public had not been engaged, and the board, as well had not been engaged,” Kerr said during his county manager report to the BOC Tuesday. “Those projects only require administrative review and were granted permits and approvals through staff review and the approval process.”
The developments of community impact were broken down into three categories: place of public assembly, such as places of worship or a theater; large scale developments that are commercial; and large-scale developments that are residential.
For places of public assembly and large commercial developments, if a project encompasses four acres or more or a structure of more than 10,000 feet, it will require approval. Also requiring approval will be a residential development of 50 acres or more or 100 or more dwelling units.
Citizen comments moved in meetings
The BOC voted to allow citizens to have their say earlier in public meetings.
Prior to Tuesday, citizens wishing to speak during meetings at the Newton County Historic Courthouse had to wait until the very end of the meeting.
After Douglas asked for citizens comments to be moved up to the sixth item on Tuesday’s agenda, District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson made a motion to have comments both at the beginning and end of meetings going forward. That motion, to amend the county’s rules and procedures to allow 30 minutes for comments at the beginning of the meeting, was passed 4-1, with District 5 Commissioner Levie Maddox voting against.
BOC doesn’t vote on gazebo
Newton County did not vote on a proposed gazebo for the Covington Square after Covington City Planner Randy Vinson answered questions on the project.
The Covington City Council, which operates the downtown Square and its park for the county, approved the gazebo last month. The BOC approved the city’s plans for the Square, including the gazebo two years ago, and did not revisit that vote Tuesday night.
Schulz’s financial accountability motion fails
The BOC voted down, 3-2, a motion by Schulz to adopt parliamentary procedures to encourage accountability and self-control in financial decision making.
Schulz’s proposed that in every main motion directly or indirectly requesting the expenditure of county funds that runs over a department budget, the motion should also propose a source of the funding. If it does not meet this requirement, Schulz proposed that the BOC not consider the motion. Her motion, made Tuesday, also said that the BOC should consult the county manager, finance director and any department heads for implications of a request that is unbudgeted; any motion requesting the county to enter into a contract to expend county funds shall be accompanied by written confirmation, signed by the county manager.
Schulz and District 5 Commissioner Levie Maddox voted for the motion, which failed.
SPLOST calendar set
The BOC will meet Oct. 18 at 4 p.m. to discuss project lists from each of the county’s municipalities for a possible 2017 Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax.
Agreement extended with GEMA
Newton County renewed its memorandum of understanding with the Georgia Emergency Management Association to house supplies for an emergency evacuation shelter.
Finance department to do work for SWA
Newton County Attorney Megan Martin will write up a conflict waiver between the BOC and Newton County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) to allow the SWA to utilize the county’s finance department after the BOC unanimously approved the action.