This story will provide brief updates on each city and subsequent stories will focus on the collective issues.
Newton County’s six mayors, including Social Circle, had their third collective mayors meeting on Friday to update each other on their city’s status and discuss common issues and solutions.
Porterdale Mayor Bobby Hamby said the mayors had their first group meeting in June or July and plan to meet once every two months. He said they had bandied the idea around for the past couple of years, and he finally decided this was a good year to start.
Mayor Kim Carter said her city continues to focus on its housing initiative. City officials are looking forward to the $9 million Harristown Park, a senior affordable living facility, breaking ground in June 2010.
The city also loaned some seed money to the recently-formed Covington Redevelopment Authority, to help that group get up and running.
She said the Turner Lake Road and Clark Street roundabout project is scheduled to be let in February 2010. The $900,000 project is being paid for with stimulus money.
City Manager Doug White said the General Mills distribution center is going well and the project developer announced bids for water and sewer
infrastructure this week. White said the recent rain has put the project behind about three weeks, but crews are working nearly 24/7 to get the center ready for occupation by the previous goal of May 1.
Carter said she had heard there were some Environmental Protection Division violations, and Mayor Jim Burgess confirmed that there were soil erosion problems because of the rain but everything was taken care of.
He said the 1.5 million sq. ft. center will be the largest LEED-certified, an environmental-friendliness rating, building in the state. White said the city received a $1.2 million grant to expand infrastructure out to the plant. He said this will help open up the land in between General Mills and Solo Cup for development.
White said the city also hired a new Better Home Town director and was working with Walton County on an economic development plan. The city is also looking into ways to redevelop the old Cotton Mill site.
Louis Van Dyke, the owner of Blue Willow Inn, received a $3 million One Georgia grant to expand the Blue Willow Village, a complex of retail shops and a museum on property adjacent to the restaurant.
Hamby said the city is having its Christmas in the Village celebration on Dec. 4, with a tree lighting and Santa and live reindeer.
He said the city found out it will be receiving FEMA money to help redo the trails that the city had created along the Yellow River. Porterdale has been making an effort to expand access to the river for sightseeing and activities and had completed a basic trail before the flooding washed it away.
An architecture firm has completed plans for phase 1 of the renovation of the historic Porter Memorial Gymnasium, which was nearly destroyed by a fire in 2005. He said plans are for the gymnasium to be a multi-use structure. Phase 2 will consist of getting a roof back on the structure and the third phase will be to complete the gym.
Hamby said that most tickets have been sold for the May roast of Betty Faye Jaynes, a Covington woman who was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame for her contributions as a coach. Anyone interested in buying tickets should contact the City of Porterdale or Kay Coggins.
Mayor-elect Roger Sheridan told his fellow mayors about his campaign, where he and his four council running mates all won elections this year. He said 29 percent of registered voters in Newborn went to the polls, the highest percentage in the county. He said during his campaigning around town, he saw parts of the city that were isolated and he is planning to have a more inclusive government.
He again promised to allow citizens to comment before on every agenda item before the council votes. Burgess said that is similar to how New England town meetings work.
Sheridan said that right now he and the others have hopes and dreams, but it’s too soon to tell how those will work out. The incoming council members already have projects they plan to start when they enter office in January.
Mayor Jerry Roseberry said the city has started construction on its $1.6 million community center and new city hall, which is scheduled to be completed by August 2010.
He said the city is looking to hire someone to convert the city’s zoning ordinances into a form-based ordinance system, a more modern system designed to help cities deal better with urban sprawl, deterioration of historic neighborhoods, and neglect of pedestrian safety in new developments. Carter said Oxford could use the city of Covington’s form-based code, which was passed in July 2008.
Roseberry said the city applied for a $100,000 grant to extend the city’s sewer system. Also, city and school officials are still trying to bring a Barnes & Noble bookstore to Oxford. He said officials should know by January if the bookstore will come.
Mayor Bill Cocchi said Mansfield is such a small town that everyone wants to keep it a simple bedroom community. He said a business was trying to come to Mansfield, but no in the city would sell them any land.
He said the city is also trying to address is blight, and local businesses like Hays Tractor have made efforts to clean up their areas. Mansfield will also have to look at possibly replacing its water lines in the future as well.