The Board of Commissioners made discussed several major issues at Tuesday’s meeting, including hiring a new county manager and reaching out to the city for additional funds to help save the library.
The board also heard a presentation about Newton County Tomorrow from Oxford mayor Jerry Roseberry, who explained that the 501c3 aims to promote responsible development and community engagement.
Some of Newton County Tomorrow’s projects have included the Newton County College and Career Academy, and a pedestrian bridge over I-20 that will eventually connect Oxford and Covington, allowing Emory students easy access to downtown Covington.
The presentation was made following a request from Commissioner John Douglas at the last budget workshop for clarification on the difference between the Center and Newton County Tomorrow.
Separately, Chairman Keith Ellis asked that the board look into giving Water Resources Director Jason Nord permission to put out a request for qualified proposals to carry out necessary upgrades to the county’s water infrastructure.
The Public Works Department, represented by Aaron Wadley, requested permission to replace two pickup trucks for $60,000.
Both the Historical Society and Alcovy CASA (court appointed special advocates for children) were given permission to move into the Historic Courthouse.
The board tabled a request by SRG Global to build monitoring wells around its Covington plant in response to chemical contamination of the groundwater after the company withdrew that request.
According to an SRG spokesperson, the company has been pursuing multiple plans to obtain the data it needs, including working individually with private property owners in the area to install the necessary wells.
“This plan has become more feasible and we’re moving forward, which is why the request was withdrawn,” the spokesperson said. “Working individually with private property owners does not limit or reduce the number of wells. It will be comprehensive.”
The board voted 4 to 1, with Douglas objecting, to table a request for conditional use by Verizon for a new monopole telecommunications tower on Crowell Road. Commissioner Nancy Schulz expressed concern about the location of the tower, and said she hoped an agreeable alternative could be reached.
The board voting against allotting between $5,000 and $10,000 for the citizen landfill committee to bring in outside experts, including a consultant from Smith Gardner in North Carolina who has worked on the landfill for years.
Landfill committee member Denny Dobbs clarified to The News after the meeting that based on his research, it would have cost about $7,000 for one visit from the John Gardner of Smith Gardner, and three visits from Steve Harbin of Macon, who has also worked on the landfill.
The board took a beating in the citizen comments, mostly for the county’s handling of its legal budget, but also for the behavior of two elected officials.
Tonya Bechtler of the Yellow River Water Trail took to the podium to say that Ellis had had her removed from a meeting at the landfill with the Environmental Protection Division and local representatives, even though she had been invited by District 113 State Representative Pam Dickerson.
“My frustration is that this is another example of the just how far Chairman Ellis will go to stifle dissent or even discussion which is not absolutely in sync with the position he wants to prevail,” Bechtler said in her written statement.
Local resident Thomas Buchner confronted Commissioner J.C. Henderson for allegedly telling citizens that Schulz had “taken” $390,000 out of the General Fund.
Schulz explained that the money was approved unanimously in 2009 to supplement a Neighborhood Stabilization program (NSP) grant, which allowed the purchase of foreclosed homes and their transferal to Habitat for Humanity for sale at no profit. The county’s handling of the program has come under scrutiny. Schulz asked for an update to be presented to the board as soon as possible.