What was different about this week? What synergy conspired to put Covington and Newton County back in “Drive,” instead of “Reverse”?
Did lightning strike us unawares?
Monday night, the city and county joined forces in a financial pact in support of a proposed $200 to $300 million retail/hotel/office development. Within 35 miles of this project, a market of 9 million people can make it a solid draw. The hotel and Class A office space will benefit existing industry and entice new development prospects. The promise of new retail options is more than exciting. The city/county collaboration is encouraging. It’s the way things used to work.
Tuesday night, the Board of Commissioners voted almost unanimously to stop spending on Bear Creek Reservoir and instead to correct, repair and enhance existing water resources and infrastructure. Millions – the number is painful – have been spent in pursuit of a permit now shelved by the Corps of Engineers. Finally, our commissioners said enough is enough. A news article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said the decision would affect water planning all across North Georgia and could start new dialogue about reservoirs in state water planning policy.
At the same BOC meeting, commissioners voiced strong support for a Solid Waste Authority – like the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority – to design and manage our solid waste system in a professional – not political – manner. This citizens’ committee recommendation had been ignored until now. Commissioners also blessed a study of ways to stop the $2 million per year bleeding from convenience centers. Convenience centers are seen as a free service; they are anything but free and are mightily abused.
And more. BOC members largely agreed on the need for scope of work requirements for legal services, now costing over $1 million a year - in stark contrast with surrounding and similar counties, even larger counties.
What spurred all this action? Citizen activists, appointed citizen committees and detailed research provided facts, options and pressure to the commissioners over months. Local newspapers and Catie Beck’s crew at Channel 11 gave intense coverage. Letters to the editor and opinion pieces educated large numbers of voters on the issues. And finally, both city and county elected officials proved they could be responsive to the people when presented with solid arguments. Sincere thanks are due to those who initiated and supported all of this week’s activity. They showed guts and vision.
But we cannot rejoice for long in the fact that the wheels of city and county government are turning in the right direction. Observers and media must stay vigilant to see that required actions follow strong statements and decisive votes. The county has yet to act on the recommendations of the Form of Government committee presented as a balanced package.
And a central issue remains: whether the BOC will retain the divisive and controversial county attorney come January.