Oxford College could be getting a $20 million science center, Newborn now has a taxi service and cities are turning their attention to the 2011 SPLOST vote.
Newton County’s mayors met Friday morning at the Porterdale City Hall Annex to update changes to their cities and discuss future issues affecting all municipalities.
Mayor Jerry Roseberry said Oxford College continues to raise funds for a $20 million science center. Oxford’s Director of Communications Cathy Wooten said the college was still in its capital fundraising campaign but had also begun working on the design with an architecture firm. Wooten said the college hopes to complete its fundraising efforts by the end of the year.
The original cost of the building was expected to be $36 million, but Wooten said the existing science building, built in the 1960s, will be kept and likely refurbished, greatly reducing the construction cost. She said the most important feature of the new science building will be the additional laboratory space. According to a study by Paulien & Associates, a higher education strategic planning firm, Oxford needs 60 percent more laboratory space.
Roseberry said the city is almost finished reworking its zoning ordinances. Covington Mayor Kim Carter asked if they were form-based, and Roseberry said some were. Covington adopted its form-based zoning ordinance in July 2008. A form-based ordinance system is a modern approach to zoning designed to help cities deal better with urban sprawl, deterioration of historic neighborhoods, and neglect of pedestrian safety in new developments. The ordinances generally emphasize density and mixed-use developments wherever possible.
Roseberry said the city is also rewriting its personnel manuals.
Mayor Roger Sheridan said there are several new developments taking place in his town.
"We’re a big town now. We have a taxi service," Sheridan said jokingly at the meeting,
An entrepreneur recently started a taxi business to accommodate the Newborn residents who travel to surrounding towns, like Covington and Madison, to shop. Sheridan said the man charges around $7 to $10 per trip, and aims to keep prices lower by transporting multiple people at once. This way the shoppers still save money, while the driver still makes money.
In other news, Sheridan said an auto parts store and a Dollar General are considering locating in Newborn. He said the auto parts store is a name brand store that receives numerous parts requests from the small town. Sheridan said many retired residents make their own automotive repairs, and the store ends up making numerous deliveries.
While Oxford works to revise its personnel policy for its 60 employees, Newborn is working to create an employee policy for its handful of workers. Covington Mayor Kim Carter offered to share her city’s policy to serve as a template.
Newborn also recently started a Neighborhood Watch program in the town to help residents combat the increased number of thefts.
Social Circle Public Safety Director Tom Fox said his city recently started up a business watch program, where officers come and check the security of a building and give business owners a book of tips. He said it’s based on a Conyers/Rockdale County program, and he offered to share the books with the other cities.
Transportation SPLOST bill
County Chairman Kathy Morgan stopped by to give the mayors an update on H.B. 277, the transportation-SPLOST bill. This bill was capstone of the state’s efforts to revamp transportation funding in Georgia, and divides the county into 12 existing regional planning boundaries.
Newton County was placed into the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission along with Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Greene, Jackson, Jasper, Madison, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe and Walton counties.
Each county will be able to send two representatives to serve on a transportation board, which will have the responsibility of choosing the list of regional transportation projects that will be funded by a 1-cent transportation-only SPLOST. The counties will submit their project lists to this board.
Morgan will be the county’s representative, and the mayors selected Covington Mayor Carter to be their representative on the board. Carter was chosen because the projects considered by the board will be projects that normally would have been paid for by the state, and Covington and Newton County will be responsible for most state routes and other major highways, Morgan said.
Morgan said because Newton County is the largest county in the NEGRC by population, it will have a seat on the transportation board’s executive council. In addition, Newton County contains major highways, and the state is planning eventually to run additional commuter and freight rail systems through the county, so it’s a major thoroughfare.
"This is going to be a battle for dollars, so we want to make sure we have a united front," Morgan said.
Morgan said she hoped the Governor and Lt. Governor would make also local appointments to the board.
She said voter education will be incredibly important because if the region doesn’t approve the one-cent tax in the 2012 General Primary, the county will have to have a 30 percent local match for any state-funded project. If the bill is passed, then the counties will only have to have a 10 percent local match.
Morgan said the bill, "is confusing, but bottom line, it will mean dollars to our community." She said she will update the mayors as she learns more, possibly after an August 6 meeting about the bill at NEGRC.
Carter asked Morgan when movement would start on 2011 SPLOST planning, and Morgan said she expected the board of commissioners to hold a work session sometime in late July or August. She said she doesn’t yet know the structure of the SPLOST committee, but assured the cities they would be represented. At previous meetings, the mayor’s have discussed the importance of receiving sufficient SPLOST funding for their projects, not just county projects.