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Local leaders brief legislative delegation on priorities
Members of Newton County's delegation
Members of Newton County's delegation to the Georgia General assembly meet with local leaders Monday at the Newton County Historic Courthouse. From left: State Sen. Brian Strickland, State Rep. Pam Dickerson and State Rep Dave Belton. - photo by Darryl Welch

Transportation, education, and local zoning control were among the top concerns of local officials when they met with members of Newton County's delegation to the Georgia General Assembly Monday afternoon at the county's Historic Courthouse.

The Jan. 13 forum, hosted by the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce included county leaders and the mayors of Covington, Porterdale, Oxford and Mansfield, along with State Sen. Brian Strickland, State Rep. Pam Dickerson and and State Rep. Dave Delton.

Commission Chairman Marcello Banes said transportation continues to be an issue in the county and asked about increased funding for projects in the county.

"Some of our roads need widening," he said, "not only that, I feel we have an issue with transportation as far as getting seniors to different places, getting college students back and forth to college and getting people that want to catch a ride to their jobs and come back. How can we get more transportation dollars for that?"

Covington Mayor Stave Horton expressed concerns about delays in construction on roads in the city, including Alcovy Road, while Mansfield Mayor G.W. Davis, Jr. expressed concerns about Highway 11 running through his city.

The legislators recommended that the local governments come up with priority lists for their road concerns.

"If you could come together, city and the county and have some sort of joint resolution supporting a certain priority list of projects, you then take that to us and we could then take that the DOT board member for the city and county and take that all the way up to the DOT at the state level," Strickland said.

District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz and local mayors expressed concern about HB 302. The bill would prohibit local governments from adopting or enforcing ordinances or regulations relating to or regulating building design elements as applied to one or two-family dwellings. 

Both the Covington City Council and the Newton County Board of Commissioners passed resolutions opposing the legislation last year. They are being joined this year by The City of Porterdale. Mayor Arline Chapman delivered a resolution passed by the city council last month to the legislators Monday afternoon.

County School Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey advocated for additional funding to provide school resource officers and mental health clinicians for every school.

"School safety is a priority for us," she said, " One of the legislative priorities for the school board is to not only to have increased mental health care services, but also to have clinicians at our schools. One clinician per school and perhaps a resource officer at each of our schools as well, in an effort to continue to enhance safety."

Fuhrey also asked about legislation that would allow retired educators to return to the classroom without jeopardizing their pensions.

HB 320 will permit a public school system to “employ a beneficiary as a certified teacher of pre-kindergarten through grade 12. 

According to the bill, the TRS (Teacher Retirement System) beneficiary will remain a recipient and “shall continue to receive his or her retirement allowance and any post retirement benefit adjustments for which he or she is eligible.”

 HB 336 will permit “beneficiaries to return to service full-time as teachers without affecting their benefits. According to the bill, the TRS beneficiary may elect one of the following if he or she returns to the public school system:

  • terminate his or her retirement allowance and become a contributing member of the retirement system
  • or not reinstate his or her membership in the retirement system and remain a beneficiary 

Belton sponsored both pieces of legislation.

“We’re hopeful that it’s going to move forward.," he said.

Staff Writer Caitlin Jett contributed to this report.