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The Rockdale Citizen and Newton Citizen are shining a spotlight on the Hospital Heroes at Piedmont Rockdale and Piedmont Newton hospitals who are giving their all to provide a high level of essential health care services during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In this edition, we are honoring Lakeita Walters-Swift, a registered nurse at Piedmont Newton Hospital. Here is what Walters-Swift’s colleagues have to say about her: Lakeita Walters-Swift is a member of the RN “float pool” at Piedmont Newton, which means she goes where she is needed most. When our COVID census increased, she very quickly jumped in and asked for training to take care of high acuity ICU patients. She has been instrumental in our being able to open additional units to handle the increased patient volume and acuity. Lakeita also leads with her heart. She takes the time to listen to and truly love her patients. Whether she is praying with them or bringing in clean, fresh clothes for them to wear home at discharge, she always goes above and beyond!

Lakeita Walters-Swift


Lakeita Walters-Swift

CONYERS — The Rockdale County Branch NAACP is hosting a candidate forum for the Conyers City Council elections on Monday, Oct. 4. The 7 p.m. event will be virtual via Zoom. The meeting ID is 84077808522 and the passcode is 754477. Candidates in two contested City Council races who have agreed to partipate are: District 1 — Eric Fears and Leslie Lambert; District s, Post 1 — Charles Bryant, Jason Cosby and Josie Giles. Mayor Vince Evans, who is unopposed in his bid for a second term, is expected to be on hand for brief remarks. Fears and Lambert are vying for the seat now held by long-time incumbent Cleveland Stroud, who announced earlier this summer that he would not seek re-election. Bryant, Cosby and Giles are running for the seat previously held by Blair Barksdale. The seat became vacant last year when Barksdale resigned after moving out of the city. Oct. 4 is the last day for city residents to register to vote in the Nov. 2 election. Early in-person voting begins Oct. 12 at the Rockdale County Board of Elections Office at 1261 Commercial Drive SW, Suite B. The Rockdale County Board of Elections Office conducts the city election and is available to answer any questions about the upcoming election by contacting 770-278-7333 or visiting rockdalecountyga.gov.

COVINGTON — More than 50 residents of all ages turned out Tuesday for an outdoor town hall meeting on the future of the Conyers Street Gym and Baker Field. After hearing the prospective plan for a residential development, some residents were excited about what the future could hold for the area, but many others pleaded for the gym and field to instead be renovated and used. The gym, built in 1935, had been closed since the Newton County Recreation Department moved out in 2015 and is in disrepair. The field is used by neighborhood children and some teams for practice, but is not in playable shape for games. The fair market value for the gym and field is $850,000 if the city decided to sell the property. An estimated cost for renovating the gym and field is between $12-$20 million, according to City Manager Scott Andrews. The city has already received a state grant with a $150,000 match to remove asbestos from the gym, which will be done regardless of what happens to the site. The city of Covington issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) in 2020 in reference to the gym and ball field. They received no responses, and issued a second RFP in 2021, this time receiving just one response from The Revivalist Guild, a development company in Atlanta. The meeting was held to give residents a chance to see the company’s proposal for the site and to ask questions and make comments. Residents were invited before the meeting began to tour restricted areas of the gym to see the shape it is in. Prior to the presentation, several of the City Council members thanked the residents for attending, with Susie Keck asking everyone to “keep an open mind and see what could be.” Hawnethia Williams remembered growing up in Covington and seeing how young people played in the gym and on the field and really enjoyed it. She said even though the gym is historical, people should think about it in terms of how to maintain history. “You marry history to hope in the sense that whatever it is that is historic, there has to be a continuation of it,” Williams said. Don Floyd recalled going to first grade in the building and playing baseball on the field, but added that they can’t just look at it through fond memories. “Please listen to what is going on,” Floyd said. “I’ve had to learn to look through the eyes of the younger generation and try to understand what the younger generation is looking for.” John Adams, a historic developer with The Revivalist Guild, explained their plan for the gym and ball field. He noted that he and his wife used to live in Covington years ago and have wonderful memories of the area. Adams said he loves to take history and tell the story over again. “The idea is for the gym to remain as it is as a structure with the exception of adding some windows,” he said. “We’ll get it cleaned up and put modern gas and electric in. We’ll preserve the maple flooring in there now, and put 20 small apartments inside on two floors. We’ll use the lobby to tell the history of the project.” As for the ball field, Adams said “the idea is to create a two-story building in the same shape as the baseball field and push it back so we can maintain the exact locations of home plate, first and third bases, and the dugouts outside with plaques. We want to have a sculptor build baseball figures to be outside of the buildings, and rebuild the press box on its site and have the historical stories told in the press box. “Inside the building will be 20 more apartments and a small amount of retail — cafe, bakery — whatever the community is looking for. Parking will be behind the building, with a park area between the building and the cemetery.” Citizens asked questions and made comments for more than an hour before the meeting ended. Many of them expressed concerns about both increased pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the area. One resident who lives in the area said there is already a lot of traffic from the movie tours that start at the Covington Welcome Center across the street in the old Covington Police Department building. She expressed concern that if the apartments are built, they will increase pedestrian traffic and “choke out surrounding homes and families.” Others made their desires clear that they wanted the gym and ball field to be renovated and continued to be used. Heather Baker Autry said Baker Field was named after her grandfather and that he would want it to remain as it was used and for kids to be able to play here. Another person asked why the city didn’t work with the YMCA on the gym and field. Another said the field is historical and pleaded with the city not to do away with history and green space. One man said children and ball teams still use the field for practice and asked the city to think about what it would be taking away from the kids. But there were those present who felt the proposed project would be beneficial. Rob Fowler said Covington is going to grow, and the city needs to figure out how to grow in a positive way. One 25-year-old young professional said she is currently living with her parents because there are not a lot of apartments or housing available in the city. Another said growth is going to happen and that she appreciated the city trying to preserve its history while growing. At the end of the meeting, Mayor Steve Horton thanked everyone for coming out and for their input, and said the City Council has not yet made a decision on what to do with the property.

COVINGTON — An inmate at the Newton County Detention Center died by apparent suicide Sunday, Sept. 26. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation identified the deceased as John Willie Ward Jr., 49, of Griffin. According to the GBI, the cause and manner of death are pending the official results of an autopsy. The Newton County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the death as a suicide. According to the Newton County Sheriff’s Office, since the GBI is investigating, the Sheriff’s Office cannot release any further details at this time. Ward is believed to be the same man who was arrested by the Covington Police Department on Sept. 24 after allegedly waving a gun inside a home on Haynes Court. Witnesses inside the house said Ward demanded money and then pointed the gun at one of the witnesses. Police searched Ward’s vehicle and found suspected methamphetamine. Ward was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and weapons and drug charges.

COVINGTON — An existing moratorium on new residential development in Newton County has been extended until Jan. 18, 2022. The Board of Commissioners voted Sept. 21 to extend the moratorium, with the expectation that it will be amended prior to Jan. 18 to apply only to housing on new lots of less than 2 acres. The BOC had discussed the moratorium at a work session earlier in September, agreeing to the 2-acre minimum. Development Services Director Judy Johnson said last week at the board’s regular meeting that between now and January her department will compile a list of potential developments that may have a vested right to move forward despite the moratorium. The moratorium applies to the acceptance of applications for zoning petitions and preliminary plat/concept plan petitions for new residential development. Currently buildable lots and developments already in the works are not affected by it. The county has had a moratorium on all new residential developments in place since January. The moratorium, which has been extended twice, was set to expire Sept. 21. Johnson said the moratorium would not stop all residential development, but it would allow the county to address density issues. In addition, she said, it will give the county time to analyze where growth should take place, taking into consideration the availability of public safety services, schools and infrastructure. She recommended the moratorium be put in place for nine months.

Newton extends residential development moratorium

GBI investigating apparent suicide at Newton jail

Virtual Conyers City Council forum set for October 4

Covington Council hears input on possible plan for Conyers Street Gym/Baker Field

John Adams, a historic developer with The Revivalist Guild who used to live in Covington, explains their plan for the Conyers Street Gym, which could be converted into 20 apartments, and a two-story retail/apartment building built on the baseball field. Behind Adams are two of the conceptual drawings of the project leaning against the ball field backstop.

See plan,