The Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) elected not to exercise their first right of refusal on two tracts of land on the corner of Highway 142 and Alcovy Road Monday.
That 4-1 vote —with District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson the voting against — was made to pave the way for a new industry to purchase three parcels of land at that location, including the former NyloBoard building. The Covington City Council also exercised their right of first refusal during its meeting Monday. The other option for the BOC was to purchase the 20 acres of land back at $5,000 an acre.
The industry — only identified by its codename, Project Box — will invest $52,875,000 into Newton County and bring 150 new jobs, according to Serra Hall, Senior Project Manager with the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce. The name of the company won’t be announced until after the sale is made official.
The project was brought to the Newton County Economic Development department by the state. Project Box originally was looking at another location in the city of Covington when the NyloBoard property became available.
The owners of Project Box were scheduled to close on the land purchase Friday, but it was discovered that Newton County and the City of Covington had a right of first refusal covenant that dated back to the 1970s. The owners were granted a week extension with closing scheduled for Nov. 11. The covenants were put in place, Hall said, so the city and county could make sure companies coming into the industrial park were what they wanted.
“We’re all excited the state has brought this project to Newton County and the city of Covington,” Newton County Chair Keith Ellis said.
The new business will also be eligible for the state’s Quick Start program based out of the Georgia BioScience Training Center at Stanton Springs, according to Hall.
The BOC’s work session Monday was called Saturday afternoon after the need for the meeting was made known.
Henderson called the meeting into question, by saying he —the commissioner whose district the project is in — was not made aware of what was happening. Henderson, for the third time in recent months, requested a letter to be written to the Georgia attorney general seeking an investigation into illegal meetings being conducted. In order for a public meeting to be in accordance with the state’s sunshine laws: the meeting must be publicized 24 hours in advance, a quorum must be present and it must be made in the open unless it is to discuss personnel, land acquisition or litigation.
Other Newton County commissioners denied Henderson’s claim and said the meeting was above board.
“I want to state for record -- an email was sent out to the entire board,” District 2 Commissioner Lanier Sims said. “Normally an email is sent to the county clerk, which is then delivered to the district 4 commissioner.”
Henderson said he first heard of the meeting when he was called Sunday evening.
“All of us were sent emails at the same time, and we received a communication from attorney Paul Frickey today,” District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz said. “I don’t think any of us had prior knowledge of what is going on.”
District 5 Commissioner Levie Maddox said he had a brief conversation via phone with Sims on Friday or Saturday, and brought the discussion back to the industry.
“The conversation and meeting tonight is about jobs,” Maddox said. “I can’t imagine the BOC or the city would purchase this again.”