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Rockdale County Board of Commissioners give final approval to truck stop text amendment
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CONYERS — The Rockdale Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the second and final reading of a new text amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) that better defines what a truck stop is and states that truck stops are a prohibited use.

The clarification at their Nov. 10 meeting comes 23 months after the BOC unanimously vetoed another text amendment to the UDO that would have allowed truck stops/travel centers in the county.

The issue of trucks stops/convenience centers arose in the fall of 2018 after William Corey and U.S. Enterprises Inc. wanted to build a Quik Trip (QT) Travel Center on a 35.5-acre lot located at 2527 Sigman Road SW. The property abuts the corner of Sigman Road and Iris Drive at Exit 78 off I-20 East.

The planning and zoning staff developed a text amendment to the UDO allowing truck stops/travel centers and presented it to the BOC. After more than a month of discussions and referrals, the commissioners unanimously denied the text amendment in December 2018.

The issue came back to life a year later in December 2019 after the developer tried to get a land disturbance permit for the site. Then-Planning and Zoning Director Kc Krzic denied the permit application based on the use of the property being classified as a truck stop and, therefore, prohibited by code.

The developer appealed her denial to the Rockdale County Board of Assessors (BOA), claiming the proposed use was not for a truck stop.

The main issue of difference appeared to be the developer’s plan to have separate tractor-trailer diesel fueling and gas/diesel fueling islands for cars and light duty trucks, and parking spaces and a weighing scale for the tractor-trailers, which the county insisted made it a truck stop.

After several hearings, the BOA voted in December to uphold Krzic’s decision to deny the permit.

The new amendment changes Section 106-1(c) in the UDO from prohibiting truck stops to defining truck stops as gas stations or gas stations with convenience stores that include one or more of the following prohibited uses:

♦ A parking area designed for use by heavy trucks.

♦ Weight scales designed for use by heavy trucks.

♦ A raised canopy for use by heavy trucks to dispense truck fuels and that is separate from the canopy or area used to fuel cars.

♦ A restaurant including dine-in or drive-through window or both.

♦ Facilities for maintenance and repair of heavy trucks.

♦ Facilities for overnight storage of heavy trucks.

♦ Shower facilities for the crews of heavy trucks.

♦ Graded hard surface areas designed to accommodate the wide turning radius of heavy trucks.

♦ Specially designed entrances and exits for heavy trucks.

♦ Any other specialized facility or amenity for the use of heavy trucks and their crews.

♦ Fueling stations cannot have an MPD (Mobile Petroleum Dispenser) flow rate greater than 5 gallons per minute.

It concluded by stated that truck stops are prohibited.

The text amendment was unanimously recommended for approval by the Planning Commission, went through a public hearing by the BOC on Oct. 27 without any negative comments, and was approved by the commissioners at their Nov. 10 meeting.

Recount shows little change in Rockdale, Newton election results

COVINGTON — Elections officials in Rockdale and Newton counties have wrapped up the recount and audit of the Nov. 3 presidential election results with little change in the vote tallies.

Cynthia Willingham, supervisor of Rockdale’s Board of Elections, said her employees and volunteers completed the recount Saturday at 3:30 p.m. after beginning the process Friday morning. “We were three votes off versus what we counted election night,” she said.

Willingham said the recount resulted in a similar margin of victory for Joe Biden over President Trump to the original count on election night, with Biden receiving nearly 70% of the Rockdale vote.

Newton County elections officials completed the recount and audit of the Nov. 3 presidential election Monday afternoon after working from Friday through the weekend.

Board of Elections Chairman Phil Johnson said the county transmitted the results to the Secretary of State’s Office Monday afternoon for certification.

“We will let the Secretary of State publish the results, but I can report that the audit tally from counting 54,592 votes by hand varied just a very few votes from the results certified by the board,” he said in an emailed statement.

Newton voters also chose Biden over Trump, with nearly 55% of the vote going to Biden.

Statewide, the margin is much closer as the recount continues throughout the state. As of Tuesday morning, Trump had 49.24% of votes in Georgia and Biden had 49.52%. Willingham said if the final audit tally results in a vote difference of less than half a percentage point, Trump will be entitled to a recount.

“If it’s half a percent or less, you are entitled to an automatic recount upon request,” she said. If a recount is requested, Willingham said it will be done mostly by machine, although the mail and provisional ballots will be hand counted. That process should take about a day, she said.

The cost of two days of hand recounting the ballots in Rockdale was in the $30,000 range, Willingham said.

In Newton, Johnson thanked those involved with carrying out the recount and said the new voting system measured up.

“I want to thank (Elections Supervisor) Angela Mantle and (Assistant Director) Angela Davis, the permanent and temporary staff members, the Board of Election members, the state and local Republican and Democratic monitors and the observers who spent much of their weekend participating in the audit,” said Johnson. “The audit results should provide confidence in the results of the Newton County Nov. 3, 2020 General Election count. This was our first year using the Dominion system, and the audit confirms the vote tally from the machine count.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger last Wednesday announced that the state would conduct a hand recount of the nearly 5 million ballots cast in the 2020 presidential race in which Biden and Trump were separated by roughly 14,000 votes. Raffensperger called for the recount as part of a regular audit of the election results, which were poised to be done via an electronic sampling of ballots before Raffensperger revised the process under emergency powers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Newton school system honored for use of analytics to meet student needs
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COVINGTON — When school routines turned upside down in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Newton County School System turned to technology to help it navigate and meet the changing needs of its students.

On Monday, Forecast5 Analytics, a leader in public sector data analytics, named NCSS as the Project of the Year award winner for 2020 for its ability to use geoanalytic data to determine food service and internet service needs of students.

“This work began in March, immediately after school closures,” said Dr. Allison Jordan, NCSS director of Testing, Research and Evaluation. “We used the information in multiple ways. Initially, maps were set up to identify food service sites. Prior to March 2020, we had static maps, but the migration to this platform allowed us to view more detailed information, with real-time data. We were able to identify specific areas in the community where students needed food. Without the maps, we might have possibly missed groups of students in need of food. We worked with community partners to identify additional sites, as well as bus distribution food routes.”

Following the initial use of the maps for food service distribution, Jordan said the district expanded the types of variables plotted on the maps.

“All student home addresses were geocoded and placed on a map,” she explained. “Broadband service, provided by the FCC, was added as an additional map layer. The information was analyzed, based on unserved and underserved locations, to determine unique households with either no or limited internet connectivity. Households in either category, by FCC definition, would need service. This information was joined to parent survey data — learning model, internet service, device — housed within our student information system. Reports were generated to determine the number of households in need of internet service.”

According to Jordan, these additional variables afforded NCSS administrators the opportunity to examine broadband connectivity within the district and identify students in need of hotspot devices and/or computers.

“This information was matched to learning model selections housed in the SIS (Infinite Campus), which provided more insight into students who required additional technical resources for instruction,” she said.

“As a company that thrives on innovation and growth, Forecast5 is energized by the ways in which our clients take our tools, apply their creativity and domain expertise, and generate value for their communities,” said Scott Smith, CEO and president of Forecast5 Analytics in a letter to Newton County School Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey. “The work that Dr. Allison Jordan did relating to broadband accessibility in your district was exemplary — and we believe it deserves national recognition.”

“Dr. Jordan’s innovative work in this area has enabled our school system to better meet the needs of our students and their families,” said Fuhrey. “It is quite an honor for the Newton County School System to have been recognized by Forecast Analytics as their 2020 Project of the Year due to Dr. Jordan’s efforts: I am so proud of her work and dedication to our students, families and community.”

Drainage repairs underway at Conyers library
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CONYERS — Work is underway at Nancy Guinn Memorial Library to repair a failed drainage system on the park side of the property.

The drainage repair will address several widening sinkholes that jeopardize the safety of library patrons and pose a liability risk. According to the library, despite numerous mitigation efforts over the years, the 100-year-old drainage pipes had to be replaced. The project is funded in part with state grant funds through Georgia Public Library Services.

Library officials felt now was the best time to make the drainage repairs while library traffic has slowed due to the pandemic. Library Director Brenda Poku consulted with Nate Rall, Georgia Public Library Services director of planning and construction, on the project.

“By addressing this problem now while traffic has considerably slowed, we will ensure the safety of our customers,” said Poku in a released statement. “Rockdale County has an incredible library and board of trustees; with the near completion of the new Conyers City Hall across the street, we want to make sure the entire area is harmonized so that those who want to use the library can do so without fear of injury. Weather permitting, the repairs are expected to reach completion long before the Thanksgiving holiday. We will then pivot and work on our master plan for better utilization of the library’s interior and exterior spaces as part of SPLOST funding. It is an exciting time in Olde Town Conyers. We think the community will be happy with the various projects that will continue to enhance the quality of life for all Rockdale County citizens.”