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Groundbreakings and bridge replacements
County to discuss future govt structure
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Work is starting on the $14 million Georgia BioScience Training Center in Stanton Springs Industrial Park, a perk that accompanied Baxter International’s $1 billion manufacturing campus on the Newton/Walton county line.

The state is hosting a groundbreaking for the 48,000 square-foot center at 10 a.m., Monday, and Gov. Nathan Deal will be attending.

The center was part of the state’s incentive package to Baxter. A portion of the center will be dedicated to training Baxter employees, but training for other companies will also be offered there. Newton County Chairman Keith Ellis said the facility is in the Newton County portion of Stanton Springs, which also includes part of Walton and Morgan counties. The industrial park is jointly owned by those three counties along with Jasper County.

Below are some additional notes from projects around the county:
The Newton County Board of Commissioners is having a mini-retreat to discuss the future structure of the county’s government from 6-9 p.m., April 24 on the second floor of the Newton County Administrative Building, 1113 Usher St., Covington, Ga.

The Board previously met in February to talk about different forms of government because of conflicts that currently exist between the county manager form of government the county currently has – where the county manager is the top administration officer – and the county’s charter (technically called an enabling act), which lists the chairman as the top administrative officer. The future roles of the chairman and county manager are expected to be discussed.

Ellis said the bridge on Sewell Road near the Morgan County line is going to be replaced. He said this week the bridge is expected to be closed for another 60 days.

Ellis said he met with the Georgia Dept. of Transportation recently about the long-awaited project to redesign and install stoplights at the infamous intersection of Ga. Highway 81 and Covington Bypass/Crowell roads. He said the public commenting period on the project just ended and the county will address the comments. He said construction was “getting close.”

The $2 million culvert project along Crowell Road is almost complete, Ellis said, and the original road will be opened back up soon. The accessory road that was built to accommodate traffic during construction will be kept for a future time when the road is eventually widened to four lanes, Ellis said.

The final set of improvements to the intersection of Airport Road and Ga. Highway 142 North, to add turn lanes to the intersection to improve traffic flow for residents traveling to and from Flint Hill Elementary, will be bid out April 1.

Ellis said work is continuing on the county-wide ordinances that are being created as part of the 2050 Plan. The ordinances would apply to the entire county, including every city, and would be a set of baseline ordinances to make zoning and development standards consistent across the entire county. It’s a large undertaking and is one of the most crucial aspects of the 2050 Plan. Individual cities and the county could still have standards above and beyond the baseline ordinances, but those ordinances would create a unified foundation.

Ellis said he plans to have the Board of Commissioners and the county’s Planning Commission meet soon so the two sides are on the same page when it comes to future zoning issues. Development is picking up in Newton County and the Board of Commissioners already had six rezoning requests scheduled as of Monday for its second meeting in April.

The county is planning to add at least one handicap parking spot and possibly more to the parking area behind the Historic Courthouse to give residents easier access to county meetings.