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Newton to hire consultant to oversee spending of American Rescue Plan funds
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COVINGTON — Newton County is looking to hire a consultant to oversee how federal funds from the American Recovery Plan Act are spent in the county.

In a presentation Aug. 17 to members of the Board of Commissioners, County Manager Lloyd Kerr said the county expects to receive a total of $21,704,962 from ARPA. Half of that sum — $10,852,481 — was received on May 20 and the second half is anticipated on May 20, 2022.

Kerr said the county is proceeding with caution in disbursing the funds because federal guidelines have not yet been solidified. Any funds the county spends outside the final guidelines will have to be repaid, he said.

Kerr said a request for proposals will be developed over the next 30 days outlining the scope of work for the consultant. Among the consultant’s responsibilities will be conducting a community needs assessment; developing a project list; developing eligibility criteria; and developing a projects budget. Once the chosen consultant has a plan in place, it would be presented to the BOC for adoption. The consultant would be expected to administer the program to completion.

Kerr noted that the county currently does not have the personnel to carry out a project of this scope. He said the consulting fees would be paid from the ARPA funds as part of administrative costs allowed under the current guidelines.

In response to comments by District 3 Commissioner Alana Sanders and District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson about getting funding to residents as quickly as possible, Kerr said the consultant would meet with community residents to learn where the greatest needs lie.

“Some people need food, some people need help with their rent, and some people need job training,” said Kerr. “… There are a lot of good things we can do with this money.”

In order to expedite getting funds to citizens in need, Kerr said the county might want to work with a consultant to aid businesses and infrastructure and with an organization such as United Way or the Salvation Army to handle human services.

Although final federal guidelines are not yet in place, Kerr said some areas of funding — all related to COVID-19 — have been identified. They include COVID-19 vaccination programs; testing, monitoring and contact tracing; supporting isolation and quarantine; paid sick, family and medical leave to public employees related to COVID-19 compliance; emergency medical response expenses; communication efforts related to COVID-19 vaccination programs and public health orders; purchase of PPE and disinfection of public areas and facilities; prevention and mitigation in congregate living facilities; ventilation improvements in congregate settings, public health facilities or other public facilities; capital investments or adaptations to public facilities such as hospitals or health clinics; enhancement of behavioral and mental health services; addressing disparities in public health outcomes; support for public health workers, food assistance; rent, mortgate or utility assistance; counseling and legal aid to prevent eviction or homelessness; internet acces or digital literacy assistance; job training related to a worker’s occupation or level of training impacted by COVID-19; assistance to small businesses and non profits; premium pay to essential workers; aid to impacted industries; rehiring of employees; water pollution control; and stormwater runoff control.

Areas where the ARPA funds cannot be used include legal settlements, tax reductions, matching funds for non-federal dollars, economic or workforce development, general infrastructure, and debt service.

Covington City Council approves 30-day residential development moratorium
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COVINGTON — The Covington City Council voted 4-0 at a called meeting on Aug. 24 to implement an emergency 30-day moratorium on the acceptance of rezoning applications, preliminary plat petitions and special use permit requests for residential development. Council members Don Cook and Susie Keck were absent.

City Manager Scott Andrews advised the council that between residential developments in and around Covington, including single-family homes and multi-family complexes, there are more than 5,000 residential units that either have been approved or are in the process of being approved.

“We are a hot place for business, a hot place to live, and we’re seeing a tremendous amount of growth,” Andrews said. “Just in the immediate city, items in the (zoning) pipeline number over 3,000 units. That’s not including Porterdale and the county. Immediately around Covington, it is closer to 5,000 units and up.

“What we are asking tonight is for you to consider a residential moratorium so that we can take the traffic study that we’re just concluding and also take some time to look at our (water and sewer) infrastructure and make sure that we are prepared for all that growth,” Andrews continued. “Even if it is not in the city, it will impact us severely. But more than anything, we will take the feedback from the Georgia Conservancy on our zoning codes to make sure that we are doing all the things that will put this into line with our new codes.”

City Attorney Frank Turner said the moratorium will not affect any building permit for property currently zoned residential, any residential development for which construction plans have been submitted on or prior to Aug. 24, or any zoning, preliminary plat, or special use request from a landowner who has already had substantial expenses based on assurances of city staff of the project moving forward in the process.

“There are 26 parcels in the pipeline,” Turner said. “Those 26 we feel there has been some communication back and forth with the city and some assurances. I’ve not saying they all have vested rights, but we are putting them on this list and they would not be affected by the moratorium.”

Turner further clarified what is and isn’t covered by the moratorium.

“If you have a subdivision lot that you want to build on that is already zoned residential, you have a right to a building permit,” Turner said. “But you cannot submit an application for a new development.”

Mayor Steve Horton noted that even if a development is already in the pipeline and not affected by the moratorium, that does not mean there is any assurance that the developer will get everything they want.

The moratorium will end on Sept. 24 unless the City Council decides to continue it further, in which case they will need to hold a public hearing before the moratorium can be extended. Newton County is also under a residential moratorium until Sept. 21.

Conyers’ Phyllis Hatcher hopes voters will send her to Washington
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Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of interviews with candidates in the 10th Congressional District race. For a full Q&A with candidate Phyllis Hatcher, go to www.rockdalenewtoncitizen.com.

From the time she was a Blue Bird, Brownie and Girl Scout, Phyllis Hatcher says she grew up wanting to serve her community. Today, that finds her joining the race for the 10th District U.S. Congressional seat now held by Jody Hice, who is running for the office of Georgia’s Secretary of State.

Hatcher, a Democrat and resident of Conyers since 2015, said the issue “driving” her to run is health care.

“That’s the number one concern for me,” she said. “Even me at 62, I’m uninsured. If something happened to me today, I would have to go to Grady to the emergency hospital…”

How to fix it?

“We say we want to go to Washington and do this and do that,” she said. “I don’t know how to fix it. But I know that when I get to Washington, I’ll have the tools to show me and tell me how to fix it. How to fix it, I don’t know. I don’t know the legal terms. But I know it’s a concern… I can’t say I’m going to Washington to fix this. The one thing I do know is I will be fighting to make it better and try to fix it.”

Hatcher explains how the issue became personal when her young daughter was hospitalized for six weeks and diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, requiring four insulin shots per day.

“… I can’t afford to pay $1,030 per month for Obamacare, so I even today, I don’t have health insurance,” she said. “Because of this, I know what it means to be struggling to pay bills or worried about your health or your child’s health. I want to go to Washington, D.C., to avidly fight for the residents of District 10 to have affordable health care insurance, better access to health care services and lower health care cost.”

A native of Atlanta, Hatcher was born at Grady Memorial Hospital to a teenage mother. Her grandparents, Clifford and Carrie Norwood of Jonesboro, raised her until her mother, Emma Norwood got older and then she went to live with her in Decatur.

“I had a very good coming up,” Hatcher said. “It was quiet with my grandparents.” She added that it was a different time when people could go to sleep and leave their doors unlocked or if a child misbehaved, other mothers in the community would correct them and then the child would be corrected at home, too.

“It was like a village,” Hatcher said. “Everybody raised everybody’s children… My mother had me at 15. Everybody was having children young. When I got old enough and she got grown enough, I ended (up living) with her at 11th or 12th grade.”

Hatcher said her grandfather was an iron man who worked on the railroad, and her grandmother was at home with her.

“We had the basic necessities,” she added. “I’d see other people who were going without. I’ve always had issues and concerns the world was a certain way. My daughter said all you need to know is that God is sovereign. He has the whole world in his hand… At the same time, you still worry about everybody else. I knew at a very young age, if I’d been the right age during the Civil Rights movement, I would have ended up in jail.”

Hatcher went to English Avenue Elementary, John F. Kennedy Middle and Douglass High before graduating from Columbia High School. After high school, she went to work for Maryland Casualty Insurance Co., where she worked from 1979-85. She stayed in the insurance industry for a while until, as she puts it, her “entrepreneurship kicked in.”

“I developed a construction business, Circle P Contracting,” she said, adding she was a masonry subcontractor.

“I made a lot of money building schools, including a little work on Morris Brown College,” she said. “…I stayed in the subcontracting business a little while... When I stopped doing construction work in the ’80s and ’90s, the mason business was dominated by Black males, then the Hispanic community came in. I didn’t speak Spanish. I always had to depend on someone having to translate. I ended up going into the car business.”

It was also during this time she met her husband, Caesar Hatcher, who was in the auto repair business.

“I worked with Maxie Price as a used car sales person,” Hatcher said. “I was a buyer for him at one time. He took me under his wing and showed me the business. My entrepreneurship kicked in a lot. I met my husband. I was in charge of sending cars out for repairs. We’d buy the cars, and I was in charge of finding a person (to repair them). Honest Mechanic — the name was intriguing. Basically, I called him up and he sounded like he would be a good person and wouldn’t rip you off.”

She went to check out the Honest Mechanic’s shop and the two hit it off. Hatcher said she was a single parent raising one daughter, who had just been diagnosed with diabetes, and she was not dating, but said he was “persistent.”

“To make a long story short… he proved himself, and we ended up getting married April 19, 1995 — 26 years now,” Hatcher said. “He allows me to go on my journey… ”

Ordained in 1999 into the ministry, Hatcher started her own church and has served both United Methodist churches as well as non-denominational congregations. She has a degree in religious studies from Beulah Heights University and a master’s degree in religious studies from American Bible University. She founded Phyllis Hatcher Ministries and has served a number of organizations, including the National Council of Negro Women, NAACP, Henry County Ministerial Alliance, Fourth Congressional District’s Federation of Democratic Women, Diabetic Foundation and the Boys and Girls Club in Rockdale County. Hatcher is a member of Grace Baptist Church near the Rockdale-Henry county line.

Her daughter, Kemmah Moore, is married, the mother of Hatcher’s grandson, Jason and works as a nurse at Piedmont Henry. Second daughter Angeline Hatcher is an attorney working in family law. She is getting married in November.

Hatcher recently closed down her small business in Rockdale County, Everything Lemons, a gourmet lemonade business located near Honey Creek and Ga. Highway 20. She says campaigning is taking much of her time now.

Hatcher previously ran for a seat on the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners and the state Senate District 17 seat, but has never been elected to public office. When she ran for the state Senate seat in 2018, she was one of three featured Georgia candidates to star in “Dark Horse,” an election documentary directed by Christopher Marshall, which was nominated for a Southeast Emmy Award. Filmmakers followed the candidates throughout their campaigns.

For more information, visit www.hatcherforcongress.com.

Candidates running for the 2022 U.S. Congressional District 10 seat are being asked to answer a questionnaire posed by the Citizen. A sampling of Hatcher’s answers is below. The full Q&A transcript can be found under Election 2022 at www.rockdalenewtoncitizen.com.

Following is a sampling of Hatcher’s Q&A:

Why are you a Democrat?

“I believe in economic security for everyone, I believe that the government must partner with its citizens. I believe in a free enterprise system for the working and middle classes, not just global corporations. I believe, neither in raising nor lowering taxes but in a fair tax system. I believe that no one should go bankrupt, lose their home and life savings, or die because they can’t afford health care and don’t have reasonable health insurance. I believe in the family; specifically in policies that support the family, like paid parental leave, more support for public schools, a safe and sustainable environment, more prenatal health care, better support for working moms, better day care programs for our children and immigration policies that don’t punish children or split up families. I believe undocumented residents are my brothers and sisters first.”

As you see it, what is the greatest external danger facing this country today?

“The United States has fallen so behind in developing the next frontier of innovation for the future.”

Do you think Americans should pay more in taxes? If so, how much more and why?

“I support rich and wealthy Americans paying their fair share of taxes without loopholes and tax evasion tricks. Tax laws are written to allow Americans with means and access to accountants and tax attorneys to use loopholes and ‘rich people’ tax tricks to evade paying what they should be paying in taxes.”

Do you support the current open border immigration system? What do you think about a border wall? Please explain your answers.

“The phrasing of the question ‘current open border immigration system’ does not account for, the past 10 years, visa overstays in the United States have outnumbered Mexico border crossings by 2 to 1. Identifying aliens who overstay their authorized periods of stay is important for national security, public safety, immigration enforcement, and processing applications for immigration benefits. Congress needs to have an honest dialogue about immigration, ALL immigration.”

Regarding Critical Race Theory, do you think promoting it will help or hurt efforts to improve race relations in the U.S? Please explain your answer. Also, should it be taught in America’s public schools? Why or why not?

“Critical Race Theory is theory used in graduate level law courses. Can graduate level law courses be taught in America’s public schools? The Republican Party is making a huge mistake by trying to use the education of young children like my 16-year-old grandson, who has multiracial friends and lives in the suburbs, to peddle this disingenuous CRT marketing campaign to scare rural America.”

Suspect steals mortuary van, leads police on chase as body rolls out of van
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CONYERS — A car break-in suspect who led Conyers Police on a chase in a stolen mortuary van on Aug. 25 turned himself in the next to the Rockdale County Jail. During the chase, a body on a gurney rolled out of the van.

Police were looking for Kijon Griffin, 23, of Atlanta as a suspect in several car break-ins. They spotted him near a Conyers mortuary Wednesday afternoon as crematory workers were taking a body out of a van. Griffin jumped into the van and took off, with a gurney with the body on it sliding out of the open back doors of the van and into the parking lot. The workers were able to secure the body.

Griffin led police on a chase on I-20 west into DeKalb County, He allegedly hit multiple cars during the chase before one of the van’s tires blew out near Wesley Chapel Road. Griffin exited the van and fled into the woods.

Conyers Police, assisted by DeKalb County Police and K-9s, the Georgia State Patrol and a HERO unit secured a perimeter in the area, but were unable to capture Griffin.

He turned himself in Thursday morning and is facing numerous charges including entering auto, motor vehicle theft, and fleeing and attempting to elude police officers.