While Newton County and Covington officials debate whether to purchase the railroad, the Newborn Town Council is firmly in support of buying the railroad and converting it into trails.
On April 5, the council and Mayor Roger Sheridan voted 5-0 to approve a resolution supporting the railroad purchase and conversion to trails. Sheridan said the council also sent letters to both Covington Mayor Kim Carter and Newton County Chairman Kathy Morgan.
"(Newborn) would be at the end of what they’re talking about, either the start or finish of the trail. We feel it would benefit our community, get people into our town. We’re considering putting a possible park in the downtown. The railroad goes right through our town, so it could open it up for business," Sheridan said.
When asked if Newborn would consider contributing financially to the railroad purchase or trail conversion, Sheridan said the town simply doesn’t have the money. However, he said someone needs to study how much money the county could get from selling the 14.9 miles of railroad, once they are pulled up.
"That recovered material could be worth a lot of money," Sheridan said.
On its Web site, A & K Railroad Materials states it "can help you turn unused lines into profit on your bottom line." In some states, including Oregon, people have been arrested for stealing and selling railroad metal, including spikes.
While many supporters believe the railroad should be purchased, but not converted into trails, Sheridan said if the land around the railroad isn’t kept up, it’ll become an eyesore and cost even more to remove in the future.
Finally, he addressed the concerns of landowners through whose property the railroad runs. He said he’s heard they are concerned about being able to hunt freely on their property and simply cross the tracks at will at any time.
He said for the few owners for whom the railroad runs through the middle of their property, perhaps a right-of-way swap could be made. The county would give the owners the old railroad right-of-way in exchange for right-of-way that would go around an owner’s property. Therefore, the trail would not interfere with people’s property, he said.
Old schoolhouse renovation
The council recently bid out the renovation of the Newborn Community Center, also known as the old schoolhouse. Newborn received five qualified bids, the lowest of which was a $109,060 bid by Peachtree Construction Services out of Decatur.
The town council will discuss the bids at their Monday work session, and may approve the low bid at their May 3 meeting. The project will depend on how much money the town is able to raise by May 3. Currently, all of the money raised has been through community donations, including from the Newborn Area Heritage Trust. Sheridan said the town is applying for a grant or low-interest loan through the USDA, but he hopes they won’t need it. The town could contribute money out of its general fund if needed.
The schoolhouse was built in 1923, but the roof was damaged in a hail storm a couple of years ago. In addition, Sheridan said the building has some foundation problems and trusses that need to be replaced. The renovation will also include replacing the handicap ramp and stairs and landings.
The community center is used by the Newborn Opry and has been used by a church in the past. Sheridan said he will appoint a committee composed of the Heritage Trust and other citizens to determine how best to use the building. He said he hopes to see some paying groups use the building in order to pay for its maintenance.
New Web site
Newborn has also created a new Web site since January: newbornga.com. Sheridan said the council decided it needed a Web site to better communicate with the public. The council is putting upcoming events and council news on the site. Sheridan said he has heard a lot of positive feedback about the site.
The town hired resident Linda Williams Woodworth to update and maintain the site.
Sheridan said the council’s efforts to reach out to the community have started working, as 14 residents attended the last council meeting. He said the decision to allow public comments on every agenda item is bringing more public input to meetings.
Based on residents’ complaints, the town is going to use money to pave Country Creek Road, which has numerous potholes. Sheridan said unused SPLOST money, which has sat for years, will pay for the repairs.
In addition, the town is working with the local precinct station to address speeders and residents who are improperly firing guns on their property.