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$43 million battery recycler to locate in Covington
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COVINGTON — The largest lithium-ion battery recycling facility in North America will be operating in Covington by spring, according to an announcement Wednesday by Gov. Brian Kemp. The new industrial development announcement will bring $43 million in investment and create at least 150 jobs.

Battery Resourcers will be strategically positioned to recycle 30,000 metric tons of discarded lithium-ion batteries and scrap annually at its Covington facility, the equivalent of 70,000 vehicle batteries per year. The Covington facility, which will be Battery Resourcers’ first commercial-scale recycling plant, will return battery grade lithium, cobalt and nickel back into the battery supply chain.

The new announcement comes on the heels of December’s announcement that Rivian Automotive will build a $5 billion electric vehicle assembly plant and battery plant in Walton and Morgan counties, on Newton’s eastern border.

“This is just the latest job creator to move to Georgia because of our leadership position in the electric vehicle manufacturing space,” said Kemp. “I’m proud to welcome Battery Resourcers as they open their state-of-the-art Covington facility. We are honored that they have chosen the Peach State for this milestone business venture and look forward to the opportunities we can create together for hardworking Georgians.”

Battery Resourcers will open in an existing 154,000-square-foot facility at 9172 Industrial Drive NE in Covington. Operations are expected to begin in spring 2022, and the company has already begun hiring. Individuals interested in opportunities with Battery Resourcers may visit https://www.batteryresourcers.com/careers for additional information.

With investors including Jaguar Land Rover, Orbia, TDK, TRUMPF Group, Doral Energy, and Hitachi, Battery Resourcers is revolutionizing the production of lithium-ion battery materials. Recycling batteries is only one component of the Battery Resourcers’ technology and marks a key step in the company’s strategic expansion plans. It has also engineered a process to turn its recyclables back into critical battery materials — specifically nickel-manganese-cobalt cathodes. Those materials are then sold back to battery manufacturers.

“We are looking forward to becoming part of the Covington community and bringing 150 tech jobs to the area,” said Michael O’Kronley, CEO and director of Battery Resourcers. “Automotive manufacturers are sitting on mountains of discarded batteries and scrap, and right now they have very few options for responsible and cost-effective disposal. With this convenient U.S. location and our technology, we can start to provide a sustainable solution that helps minimize the need for mining and returns valuable, battery-grade materials back into the lithium-ion supply chain.”

Serra Hall, executive director of the Newton County Industrial Development Authority, said the development community is excited to have Battery Resourcers join the “automotive mix in east Georgia.”

“I believe their ability to service a significant need within the automotive industry is key to Georgia’s continued success for businesses and now the EV ecosystem,” said Hall. “We are proud that they will join other local automotive leaders such as Nisshinbo Automotive, SRG Global, Mytex Polymers and our neighbors in Walton, Hitachi.”

Hall added that the recycling service offered by Battery Resourcers will enhance future sustainability efforts for area automotive suppliers.

“We look forward to seeing partnerships with Battery Resourcers with potentially SK Battery and hopefully one day Rivian,” she said.

{p class=”p1”}Based in Worcester, Mass., Battery Resourcers operates the world’s most efficient lithium-ion battery recycling process. The company’s approach to lithium-ion battery manufacturing starts with a mixed stream of used lithium-ion batteries or production scrap and ends with the production of finished, battery-ready cathode active materials. The company is also engineering a new process for graphite recovery and purification, which will enable it to return both the cathode and anode active materials back to manufacturers of new batteries.

Founded in 2015, with a mission of returning 100% of battery active materials back into new batteries, the company today makes EV-grade, finished cathode active materials that meet or exceed the performance requirements set by other industry-leading brands.

“The Newton County Industrial Development Authority is proud to welcome Battery Resourcers to our business mix,” said Lanier Sims, chairman, Newton County Industrial Development Authority. “We are grateful for their commitment to Georgia and Covington. Covington is the perfect location for any business to grow and thrive. We are proud to partner with Battery Resourcers and the state of Georgia to continue making the I-20 corridor a business and technology-focused hub.”

“The city of Covington has always been in the forefront for business success, and we are proud to have Battery Resourcers join our community,” said Mayor Steve Horton of the city Of Covington. “Battery Resourcers is an outstanding addition to our business ecosystem and will complement many regional businesses in Georgia. When fully operational, the largest lithium-ion battery recycling facility of its kind in North America will be in the heart of Covington. We are grateful for their selection, and we are proud to partner them for many years to come.”


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Conyers Mayor Vince Evans, Councilmembers Bryant, Fears take oaths of office
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CONYERS — Rockdale Superior Court Judge Robert Mumford administered the oaths of office to Conyers Mayor Vince Evans and new City Council members Charlie Bryant and Eric Fears during ceremonies at City Hall Wednesday evening.

Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases, the ceremony was closed to the public but streamed online for virtual attendance.

Evans was sworn in for his second term after having been re-elected unopposed in November. Evans previously served 18 years on the City Council.

Fears was elected to the District 1 seat, succeeding longtime council member Cleveland Stroud, who did not seek re-election. Bryant was elected to the District 2, Post 1 seat to succeed Blair Barksdale, who resigned when she moved out of the city.


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Henderson, Sanders create friction over ceremonial vice chair appointment
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COVINGTON — Ongoing friction between Newton commissioners was front and center Tuesday night when Commissioners J.C. Henderson and Alana Sanders teamed up to give the vice chair position on the board — which is largely ceremonial — more status. The effort ultimately failed.

In what is typically a routine process, the Board of Commissioners appoints a vice chair at the first meeting of each year. The position historically has rotated sequentially among the commission districts.

Sanders, in District 3, was the vice chair in 2021. Henderson, in District 4, was up for the appointment Tuesday night. The position does not carry any additional powers or responsibilities other than to preside at meetings in the absence of the chairman. Chairman Marcello Banes did not miss any BOC meetings in 2021.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Henderson complained that Sanders should have been given 20% more compensation for her efforts in working with the American Rescue Plan Act funding in 2021 and that she should have been given a nameplate on the commissioners’ dais designating her as the vice chair.

Henderson then made a motion that he be named vice chair for 2022, that he be given a name tag and a nameplate denoting his position, that he be addressed by other commissioners in all public meetings as “vice chair,” and — seemingly unrelated — that the board have public budget work sessions during the budgeting process.

Sanders seconded his motion.

“See, what the problem is that the majority of the board, which is Republican, they don’t want the citizens of Newton County to have any say in the budget,” said Henderson.

The majority of the board is actually Democrat, but Henderson derisively refers to District 2 Commissioner Demond Mason, a Democrat, as a Republican when Mason doesn’t vote along the same lines as Democrats Sanders and Henderson.

In addition, the county already holds a series of budget work sessions each year in which each department’s budget is reviewed. Those meetings are open to the public.

Henderson’s motion failed 3-2, with he and Sanders casting the votes in favor.

Sanders then made a motion to remove the budget work session requirement from the motion, but to keep the nameplate, name tag and “vice chair” address for Henderson.

Henderson seconded her motion.

In the following discussion, District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards asked for clarification of the motion.

“So, I am to refer to Commissioner Henderson as ‘Vice Chair Henderson,’ no matter the setting? Is that correct?” he asked.

“The motion included ‘only in public meetings,’” said County Attorney Patrick Jaugstetter. “Look, that’s not really enforceable. There’s no manner in which you can enforce that.”

“Yeah, that ain’t happening,” responded Edwards.

Henderson said it was a matter of disrespect.

“It’s just kind of clear that when it comes down to myself … it is going to always be Republicans. Republicans aren’t always just my Caucasian bothers and sisters on the board,” said Henderson, who is Black. “It can be us, too, as well. The same respect that you give to the chairman and the same respect that you give to anybody, you deny wanting to give me that respect.”

Mason, who is also Black, pointed out that when he served as vice chair in 2020, there was no mention of additional income or a nameplate or name tag.

“So what I want to know is, why now all of a sudden in 2021 and 2022 we are changing things … Nobody was fighting for the other commissioners prior to these two past years for these things,” he said. “This has nothing to do with Republican and it has nothing to do with Democrat. It has to do with a level of respect for the entire board, and it should not be where we are showing favoritism to certain commissioners when it’s their time to be vice chair…”

Sanders responded that she had been “disrespected” the entire year she served as vice chair, reminding the board that three members had wanted to pass her over since she had just been elected. She said Henderson’s motion was “to make sure that from now on every commissioner who comes behind us is respected, and you don’t do favoritism based on the person who is sitting in the seat, which you did in January 2021.”

Sanders’ motion failed 3-2. Chairman Banes then asked for a straightforward motion appointing Henderson as vice chair.

Sanders made the motion, which was seconded by Edwards. It passed unanimously.


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Former Newton attorney Megan Martin to sue county for age, race discrimination
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COVINGTON — Former Newton County attorney Megan Martin has notified the county she intends to sue over the county’s refusal to hire her as in-house attorney. The claim could cost the county well over $1 million.

Martin’s attorney, Edward Buckley, sent the Board of Commissioners an ante litem notice Wednesday notifying the board that Martin will bring claims of discrimination on the basis of race and age. Martin also makes a specific claim against District 3 Commissioner Alana Sanders, claiming that she and her friend Denise Barnes “disparaged” Martin to her employer, Jarrard & Davis, which ultimately resulted in Martin’s dismissal from the firm.

Buckley wrote that Martin has filed a claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the first step in filing a federal discrimination lawsuit. Buckley states that if the county “is not willing to engage with us to resolve this matter by Jan. 21, 2022, Ms. Martin will proceed with that investigation and a subsequent lawsuit.”

Martin is seeking a settlement of $850,000, in addition to compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

Because the Board of Commissioners has not yet hired an in-house attorney, it is unclear who will represent the county in the litigation. The current attorney who works for Newton County, Patrick Jaugstetter, works for Martin’s former firm, which would constitute a conflict of interest. Martin has since gone to work for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia as deputy general counsel, providing legal advice to counties throughout the state.

In the ante litem notice, Buckley states that there were two rounds of recruitment for an in-house Newton County attorney. Martin, who had worked for the county under contract with Jarrard & Davis for six years, was the sole applicant in the first round. The county then re-advertised the position, and Martin was one of three candidates interviewed. Ultimately, the choice came down to Martin, who is white, and a Black female candidate over 40 who specialized in real estate sales and, according to the claim, had no relevant experience.

“During the recruitment phase and second interview, the commissioners were very clear, with the exception of Commissioner Alana Sanders, that the in-house county attorney position was created for Ms. Martin, and that she should have the position if she wanted it,” Buckley wrote in the ante litem notice.

The county ultimately offered Martin a six-month contract, which the claim states, was designed to be unacceptable to her. Sanders, Commissioner J.C. Henderson and Commissioner Demond Mason voted in favor of the six-month contract while continuing to look for an in-house attorney. All three of the commissioners are Black.

Furthermore, Buckley states, Sanders and Mason “have a history of publicly advocating for all positions of leadership within the county to be held by African Americans, which is an unlawful, racially discriminatory hiring practice. Both commissioners have posted videos on social media taking that position, making clear they harbored racial animus in opposing hiring Ms. Martin, the most qualified candidate who applied for the county attorney position, on the basis of her race.”

Martin’s claim also states that Mason commented that “an attorney more ‘youthful’ than Ms. Martin, who is 42 years old, is necessary to fill the position. Commissioner Sanders made comments about wanting a ‘different demographic’ to be reflected in the position (than Ms. Martin), based on race.” According to the claim, these statements were made not only on social media but also in BOC meetings.

Martin’s claim hints that there may be more litigation in the county’s future, since Sanders, Henderson and Mason recently voted not to renew former county manager Lloyd Kerr’s contract, “a decision that appears to be based on his race (white) since he was high performing during his tenure and the commission has not announced any plan for his successor on Jan. 1, 2022.”


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