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Newton board narrowly OKs plan for temp workers to pick up roadside trash
Also approves 30-day moratorium on new zoning applications to overhaul regulations
Newton County Historic Courthouse
Newton County Historic Courthouse - Mason Wittner | The Covington News

COVINGTON, Ga. — County commissioners narrowly voted to use savings from budgeted jobs left unfilled to create crews of temporary workers to pick up roadside trash.

Commissioners voted 3-2 on Jan. 19 to transfer $200,000 in funds that Finance Director Brittany White said were budgeted for positions not filled by the anticipated hiring dates.

The county will use the money to hire two, five-person crews to pick up the roadside trash that some residents said had been increasing in recent months.

A temporary employment agency will be used to employ the workers through the end of the budget year, said County Manager Lloyd Kerr.

Kerr said he “likely” will continue the program after the new budget year begins with temporary workers rather than with regular employees. He said he planned to include funding for them in the 2022 county spending plan.

District 3 Commissioner Alana Sanders said she believed the $155 fee for dumping trash in convenience centers is prompting residents to illegally dump items as large as couches.

The county has imposed the fee since 2016 after it being a free service for decades.

District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson said hiring workers to pick up trash means the county now is subsidizing a service for which the taxpayers already are paying. 

Sanders said some residents had suggested county Solid Waste Management Authority funds be used to hire roadside pickup crews rather than the county budget.

However, Kerr said the county government traditionally had employed roadside trash pickup crews.

Chairman Marcello Banes said the Authority — which is a separate governing body from the county — had discussed funding the positions but recently found that costs of a planned addition to the county landfill were higher than expected.

“I think (using cost savings) is one of our best options for now to make sure we keep our roads clean,” said Banes, who is also an Authority member.

District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards, also an Authority member, said he had heard complaints about the dumping and thanked Kerr for being “innovative” in trying to find funding to deal with it.

Commissioners Edwards, Ronnie Cowan of District 5 and Demond Mason of District 2 voted for the budget transfer while Sanders and Henderson voted against it.

In other action during the recent meeting, Development Services Director Judy Johnson asked commissioners to place a moratorium on the acceptance of applications for zoning, preliminary plat and concept plan petitions for new residential developments until Feb. 19.

Johnson said the 30-day moratorium was needed to correct conflicting language in the county ordinance, as well as clarify development densities, traffic concerns and zoning requirements and differences between types of multi-family dwellings.    

She said the county ordinance needed to be revised to clarify, for example, what is required in an area reserved for “civic use” in some new, mixed-use subdivisions.

At the same meeting, commissioners also:

• Voted to accept a $65,408 grant from the Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life to help cover costs of the Jan. 5 runoff election.

The county elections office employs four fulltime staff members and hired 200 poll workers for Election Day and 10 temporary workers to count absentee ballots, according to county documents.

Grant funding will be used to cover the costs of paying the temporary workers, laptop computers and printers for advance voting locations, a tent to cover voters waiting in line, a ballot drop box and other costs.

• Voted to approve trading in a 2000 Caterpillar paver and using $357,357 in 2017 SPLOST funds to buy a 2021 Caterpillar paver from Yancey Brothers Caterpillar on a contract already bid by the state government.

The 2000 Caterpillar had gone out of warranty and the transportation department could not rely on its use as a primary paver, said director Chester Clegg. 

• Approved purchase of construction and maintenance easements totaling $1,000 for Brown Bridge Road bridge projects over the Yellow River and Snapping Shoals Creek.