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Commissioners show unity in first meeting of 2024
County - LOCAL

NEWTON COUNTY – Members of the Newton County Board of Commissioners voted to approve a number of business items at the Jan. 9 meeting.

Unity was shown across the board, as they voted 5-0 on eight listed business items and one unlisted business item that was amended onto the agenda.

Restoration of Cricket Frog Trail

The board unanimously voted to approve the restoration of Cricket Frog trail over the Alcovy River project in the amount of $994,800 from Excellere Construction LLC.

The contract will allow the Newton Trails organization to renovate the trestle over the Alcovy River that is located on the trail.

Transportation director Chester Clegg along with president of Newton Trails, Duane Ford, and Porterdale city council Post 5 representative/Newton Trails board member, Lowell Chambers, presented the item in front of the board at Tuesday’s meeting.

Clegg reminded the board that Newton Trails received a $300,000 grant from Meta – the parent company for social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram – for assistance in this project. He said that Meta has been a great partner throughout the process.

“I talk with them almost daily about the project moving forward and they’re great to work with,” Clegg said.

The county, who agreed to partner with Newton Trails, will come out of pocket $400,000 for this project.

Chairman Marcello Banes commended Newton Trails for their efforts within the community.

“They are dedicated to their cause,” Banes said. “I know we all support the trail system but you guys are dedicated. Thank you for what you do.”

Board tentatively donates $10,000 to King Day celebration

In an item that was not on the listed agenda, commissioners voted to amend the agenda and tentatively donate $10,000 to the King Day celebration.

During the chairman’s report, Banes mentioned that leaders behind the King Day celebration “asked several times for support” from the board. The chairman acknowledged that the board had previously supported this celebration in years past and would like to regularly do so again.

Banes made the initial proposal by asking the board to consider donating $5,000 to the King Day celebration.

District 4 representative J.C. Henderson said that the board used to fund the King Day celebration quite regularly. Henderson upped the ante on the donation amount, asking the board to donate $10,000.

“I think this is something good in honoring people who have worked hard in the community – black or white – to receive that award maybe once a year and give out scholarships to our kids,” Henderson said.

Henderson then made a motion to amend the agenda to add the item into the agenda, passing 5-0.

Following the motion, the commissioners went right into discussing the potential donation, with Henderson leading the charge.

“The King Day celebration when I was smaller  – and a real small child back in the 60s – was one of the highlights of my life, when I could look on the black screen TV and see a man of Martin Luther King’s stature,” Henderson said. “We can sell our kids on a dream and that dream is that if you go to school, get a good education, stay out of trouble and do what’s right, you can have that same dream which is the American dream.”

District 1 representative Stan Edwards was in favor of the idea – having seconded the motion – but wanted to make sure that the money was sent properly and not hastily.

“Just so our ducks are in a row, the organization we are going to be moving this $10,000 to – if it passes – [Does it] meet our criteria of the past criteria we’ve discussed in this board,” Edwards asked.

Banes said that he would have to confirm if the organization was a non-profit and meet the criteria required before the money was officially donated.

Nonetheless, the commissioners voted 5-0 to tentatively donate the money, barring the organization meeting the criteria.

Banes had expressed an additional thought before the vote.

“I want to make sure that everybody knows that they did not ask for a dollar amount,” Banes said. “They would love for the board of commissioners to be a part of it and support it again.”

Edwards appointed vice-chair 

Commissioners unanimously appointed Edwards as vice-chair of the board for 2024.

The vice-chair is a yearly appointed seat that rotates from year-to-year between posts. If the chairman were to be absent from the meeting for any reason, the vice-chair would run the meeting.

For Edwards, this will be his second time as vice-chair, as he was previously in the seat five years ago in 2019.

Qualifying Fees

With election season fast approaching, members of the board unanimously voted to approve qualifying fees for the upcoming 2024 election. Fees for each of the officers are approximately three percent of the base of the position, excluding any bonuses of any kind.

Fees for each position are:

  • Sheriff, $2,891.45

  • Tax Commissioner, $2,591.45

  • Clerk of Superior Court, $2,591.45

  • Probate Judge, $2,591.45

  • County Commissioner Chairman, $3,189.94

  • County Commissioner District 1, $750.00

  • County Commissioner District 3, $750.00

  • County Commissioner District 5, $750.00

  • Coroner, $1,050.00

  • County Board of Education District 2, $432.00

  • County Board of Education District 4, $432.00

Qualifying will take place from March 4-8 for all county elections.

Other Business

The board continued their unanimous ways to kick off the new year with the following business items being approved 5-0.

  • Approval of minutes for the Dec. 5 meeting

  • Ratification of mental health resolution 2023

  • Ratification of NEGRC Senior Center Nutrition Services annual contract

  • An annexation from the city of Mansfield in regards to 2.98 acres of land on Sewell Rd. The land was annexed to create two separate lots.

  • An annexation from the city of Covington in regards to 3.41 acres of land off Old Atlanta Hwy & north of Interstate 20. The land was annexed to extend the RV park.

  • The purchase of additional network storage in the amount of $14,415.06

  • The hiring of personnel hearing officer, E. Logan Butler, Esq. on an as-needed basis for appeals.

  • The renewal of an alcohol license for Family Dollar on 3250 Hwy. 81 in Covington and 1313 Limelight Inc. in Social Circle.

Also, Banes conducted a first reading for an alcohol license for CVS located at 10267 Hwy. 36 in Covington.

Commissioners will have a quick turnaround, as the next scheduled meeting is on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at the historic courthouse.