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Newton board’s rejection of state-mandated report risks millions in loans, impact fees
Newton County Historic Courthouse
The Historic Courthouse in Covington where the Newton County Board of Commissioners meets. - photo by File Photo

COVINGTON, Ga. — The Newton County Board of Commissioners’ vote to reject approval of a series of state-mandated reports must be reversed by Nov. 1 or risk eligibility for millions in grants and loans and impact fees annually.

Development Services director Judy Johnson said she planned to ask the Board of Commissioners at their next meeting to reconsider their action and approve the report.  

The Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 on Tuesday, Sept. 7, to deny the typically routine request for updates of county work programs and capital improvements plans required by state law to maintain its Qualified Local Government status. 

A motion to approve the Capital Improvements Element (CIE) and update of their entire Short Term Work Programs (STWP) failed after Commissioner J.C. Henderson said he wanted an attorney from the county’s contract law firm, Jarrard & Davis, to be present before he could vote to approve it and other agenda requests.

Johnson said the Board has until Oct. 31 to approve an Adopting Resolution and Report for submission to the Department of Community Affairs.

State law requires local governments seeking to impose development impact fees to approve CIE and STWP plans annually, according to information from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. 

The county has imposed impact fees since 2005 and generates between $900,000 and more than $1 million annually for county coffers, according to county budget information.

Maintaining a Qualified Local Government status also is “extremely important” because it keeps the county government eligible for Community Development block grants, loans from the Georgia Environmental Financing Authority (GEFA) for water and sewer improvements, and other economic development funding from both the OneGeorgia Authority and other programs from DCA and partnering agencies, Johnson said.

The county government is using a $3 million GEFA loan to expand its landfill.

Johnson, who has worked for county government for 17 years, has served as Department of Development Services director overseeing zoning, code enforcement and other related functions since 2018. She has maintained the report for six years.

“As the person responsible for preparing and facilitating this important document, I always try to prepare for the earliest available meeting in case something comes up,” she said. “In the case here, that has proven to be a valid practice.”