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Newton recognized for its abundant resources
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Newton County’s residents have long felt their home was full of gems, and it appears the entire region agrees.

The Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, a 12-county planning group, has been working on a 2035 plan, which will address growth, land use, transportation, environmental, economic, housing and human services issues. As part of the plan the NEGRC has been creating a list of the region’s most important resources.

According to NEGRC’s Web site, regionally important resources are natural or heritage resources that warrant special consideration by local governments. Natural resources include water sources, greenspace areas, wildlife habitats and agricultural resources. Heritage resources included historic areas, particularly those with tourism or economic development potential.

The NEGRC’s 12 counties submitted a total of 35 resources. The NEGRC considered 23 of those resources to be important; 11 of them were in Newton County. Newton’s resources include the Alcovy River Greenway, Bear Creek Reservoir, Bert Adams Boy Scout Camp, Factory Shoals County Park, Georgia Wildlife Center, Gaither Plantation, the Georgia FFA-FCCLA Center, Lake Roy Varner, Oxford College, the South River and the Yellow River. In addition, a decision on Burge Plantation is still pending.

Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry presented the developments to the mayors of Newton County’s six cities at their bi-monthly meeting on Friday.

"Newton County is far ahead of most cities in the region because we communicate so well. We were able to make more nominations," Roseberry said.

The county and each of its cities submitted their nominations for regionally important resources to Roseberry, Newton’s representative to the NEGRC. He said more nominations can be submitted later as the development of the 2035 plan progresses.

Now that the regionally important resources have been identified, the NEGRC will "develop a comprehensive Regional Resource Plan for protection and management of identified resources. The Plan will include a map of designated (resources), best practices, and general policies and protection measures that may be used local government in making decisions that affect the management of (regionally important resources)."

The 12 counties in the NEGRC are Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Greene, Jackson, Jasper, Madison, Morgan, Newton, Oconee, Oglethorpe and Walton.

In other county news, Social Circle Manager Doug White said plans for a bypass around the city are set to be approved by April, and construction is expected to start in 2011. The bypass is going to be built to route truck traffic, destined for Social Circle’s industries, around the city.

Covington Mayor Kim Carter said the Georgia Department of Transportation has agreed to swap control of Ga. Highway 36 for the Covington ByPass Road. The city would take control of Ga. 36 inside the city limits and it would revert to a local road. In return, the state would take over ownership of the Covington ByPass Road from 36 to U.S. Highway 278.

Carter said the city is waiting to make the swap until a decision on the railroad is made. If the railroad is not purchased and the state takes control of the the ByPass Road, it would have to put up expensive crossings signs, despite the fact no trains are running.

"If the county buys the railroad, we could avoid signalization, and the state could make $12 million in road improvements to the ByPass, instead of the county," she said.