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Newton celebrates 200th birthday with Bicentennial Bash
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COVINGTON — Newton County celebrated its 200th birthday Saturday evening with music, games, refreshments and Bicentennial Awards for some special people in the community.

Despite gloomy, wet weather, a small but undaunted crowd gathered around the Historic Square for the Bicentennial Birthday Bash that culminated with a fireworks display.

Honorees recognized for their contributions to the community were: Archie Shepherd (Bicentennial Award), Rev. James T. Walden Sr. (Chairman’s Award), Dr. Laklieshia Izzard (One Newton Award), Newton County Clerk Jackie Smith (One Newton Award), We Ride to Provide (Non-Profit Award) and Fletcher’s Jewelry (Hometown Business Award).

In addition to these awards, representatives from the county and its municipalities and school system contributed items to be placed inside a time capsule that will be placed in the park behind the county Administration Building.

The following items were contributed:

♦ Covington Mayor Steve Horton presented a photo collage of all the city’s employees and elected officials, so that those who open the capsule in the future will see who worked for the city.

♦ Mansfield Mayor G.W. Davis contributed a list of the town’s employees, a map of the city center, and a copy of the town’s website.

♦ Newborn Mayor Gregg Ellwanger supplied a T-shirt with a picture of Newborn’s Historic School House.

♦ Oxford Mayor David Eady presented an envelope containing acorns from the town’s famous Yarbrough Oak.

♦ Porterdale City Manager Frank Ethridge contributed a twine spool that had been used at the old Osprey Mill and a letter from Mayor Arlene Chapman.

♦ Traysa Price, mayor pro-tem for Social Circle, presented a gold key to the city.

♦ Sheila Thomas, chief Strategy and Support Services officer for the Newton County School System, and student R.J. Smith provided a T-shirt Smith designed with the bicentennial logo.

Saturday’s event also included games and giveaways, visits with Santa and music provided by Kollaboration Live Band.

The Birthday Bash was the final activity planned by the eight-person Bicentennial Committee. Other events have included service days in each of the commission districts, community clean-ups, proclamations for the municipalities, the Newton County School System, the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority and the Georgia Legislature, and free screenings at Legion Field of films produced in the area.


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Rockdale County Board of Commissioners approve 2022 budget
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CONYERS — The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the 2022 budget at its final meeting of 2021 on Dec. 14. The general fund budget is $83,160,501, and includes $2.8 million in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds. The overall county budget is $150,545,807 and includes the Water Resources Fund, Storm Water Fund, Special Revenue Funds, and Debt Service Funds.

Budget highlights include:

♦ No tax increases — In August the BOC approved — for the second year in a row — taking the property tax rollback rate, which keeps property taxes at the same rate they were the year before. The commissioners have warned that they will not be able to take the rollback rate for a third year in a row in 2022.

♦ No use of reserve funds to balance the budget.

♦ More focus on use of technology.

♦ More focus on COVID-19 vaccinations.

♦ More focus on economic and infrastructure development.

Following the vote, District 1 Commissioner Sherri Washington admitted the budget process was different this year.

“Knowing that we significantly tightened up our purse strings due to the rollback rate made this a very different process,” she said. “But we did it and didn’t have to lose anybody, which was one of my top concerns.

“But 2022 will be a little bit different because we’re operating on shorter purse strings. But we do have some major initiatives that are funded in this budget, so I’m looking forward to 2022.”

District 2 Commissioner Doreen Williams noted that the BOC was working right up to the last minute on the budget.

“I think as always we were working right up through yesterday to tweak and to get all of the information,” she said. “That’s always the process, and it takes a lot of work. But the thing that I have really appreciated is the capital improvement hearings that we had at the beginning of the year and then our budget hearings. I think that by having those that it made the process easier because we already had our priorities and they aligned with our strategic plan, and I think it is going to be a good year moving forward.”

Commission Chair Oz Nesbitt Sr. thanked new Finance Department Director Mark Lewis and his staff for their hard work.

“Also, thank you to Mac Underwood and David Corbin, who represent Terminus Financial,” Nesbitt added. “They have certainly been the backbone of us moving forward with our appropriations, not only last year, but again this calendar year as we transition into 2022.”


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Conyers OKs $1,000 ARPA grants for citizens, small businesses
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CONYERS — The Conyers City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a plan to provide American Rescue Plan Act funding to the first 250 residents and businesses that apply and meet the city’s qualifications.

Under a resolution approved by the council, the city has allocated $250,000 in assistance to go to individual residents and another $250,000 to local businesses. Each applicant who qualifies will receive $1,000 each, until the funds are exhausted.

The city stands to receive more than $6 million in total ARPA funds. The first half of the allocation was received by the city in May, with the second half expected next May.

Under the resolution approved by the council Wednesday, the following general qualifications must be met for resident applicants to receive the assistance:

♦ Assistance will be limited to one recipient per household, which is defined by address.

♦ The applicant must be a current city resident for at least the previous six months, as of Nov. 1, 2021.

The council approved two options for proof of residence. Option One: current signed lease agreement or current mortgage statement or property tax receipt, plus one of the following — automobile registration with the same address or current gas, electricity or water bill with the same address. Option Two: Six months of hotel/motel payment receipts from a hotel or motel in the city.

♦ The applicant’s household income is $50,000 or less when considering household income and the number of dependents. Applicants must provide 1040 tax return for 2019, 2020 and/or 2021 as proof of income.

♦ The applicant must provide a copy of a valid photo ID.

Applicants are not eligible if:

♦ They are a government employee, the mayor or a Conyers City Council member or any other elected official in Rockdale County.

♦ They are an immediate family member who resides in the same household as a city of Conyers or Rockdale County employee.

♦ If the applicant has received ARPA funds from Rockdale County.

In addition to the general criteria, resident applicants must comply with one of the following two options:

♦ Option One: Show that they have received unemployment benefits at any time from March 1, 2020 to Nov. 1, 2021, proven by unemployment benefit documentation, or

♦ Option Two: Show that they have been delinquent on utility or housing payments on at least two occasions between March 1, 2020 to Nov. 1, 2021, proven by copies of late notices.

Successful business applicants must meet the following criteria:

♦ Must be a current city business owner for at least the two previous years, as of Nov. 1, 2021, as documented by busineness licenses;

♦ Must be a small business with a maximum of 10 full-time employees.

Those not eligible include government employees; the mayor or members of the Conyers City Council; or if the business has previously received any other COVID-19 related funds, such as PPP, EDIL, or ARPA funds from any other entity, including Rockdale County.

Business applicants must also provide a valid photo ID and a completed W-9.


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