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Joint Development Authority takes next step in Rivian project
  • Updated

COVINGTON — The Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Newton, Morgan and Walton Counties on Tuesday approved an inducement resolution that opens the way for grant funding for land acquisition for the Rivian auto assembly plant. The funds are expected to be available by May 1.

The Authority unanimously approved a resolution to seek a Regional Economic Business Assistance grant to move the project forward. REBA funds may be used to finance economic development projects — including the land, equipment and construction costs. The funds are administered by the Georgia Department of Community Development.

The grant funding will be used to help acquire nearly 2,000 acres in Morgan and Walton counties as the site of a new Rivian Automotive assembly plant. The JDA issued the following statement regarding the inducement resolution:

“The Joint Development Authority is required to vote on a resolution seeking a Regional Economic Business Assistance grant from the state of Georgia and Department of Community Affairs in order to provide funding for the purchase of land related to the Rivian manufacturing facility. This resolution is required as part of the grant application process so that the JDA has the necessary funding available by May 1, 2022. A resolution like this is a common procedure taken by local development authorities that partner with the state and is an important part of the process to locate a facility within the territorial area of the JDA and state of Georgia.”

Because the JDA holds options on the land earmarked for the Rivian development, grants will be awarded to the JDA for the purchase of the land. Once those purchases have closed, the JDA will convey the land to the state.

The state of Georgia assumed control of development of the Rivian project in February, removing it from the rezoning requirements of public hearings and votes by local planning boards and boards of commissioners.

State and local tax incentives that will be offered to Rivian won’t be revealed until land sales are finalized, but already the state has promised $125 million for land and a training facility, as well as road improvements.

The inducement resolution was approved at a special called meeting of the JDA held at the Newton County Historic Courthouse. Unlike at other JDA meetings, public comment was not part of the agenda, and members of an anti-Rivian group were not there to speak against the project.


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Grady Jarrett among Rockdale County award recipients honored at State of the County breakfast
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CONYERS — Grady Jarrett, Barkley J. Dowdy, Susan Paul Smith, and Fred Straub were named the winners of the annual Rockdale County citizen awards presented during the State of the County breakfast, held this year on March 31 at the Costley Mill Event Center.

Jarrett and Dowdy received the Unsung Hero Awards, Smith received the Charles P. Cole/Lou Belcher Award, and Straub received the Dedicated Service Award.

Andrea Lee, executive assistant to Commission Chair Oz Nesbitt Sr., read the names and accomplishments of each of the recipients, and Nesbitt presented them with their awards.

Unsung Hero Award

The Unsung Hero Award was created by Nesbitt to honor dedicated, hard-working, and often unnoticed citizens of Rockdale County.

Grady Jarrett

Lee announced Jarrett as the first recipient. Jarrett was born in 1993 in Conyers, graduated from Rockdale County High School, played college football at Clemson University, and is currently a defensive tackle for the Atlanta Falcons.

“Last summer the Department of Parks and Recreation opened ‘The ROC,’ or the Resource Opportunity Center, in Jarrett’s honor,” said Lee. “The center is currently used to educate high school students on post-secondary education choices so they can also achieve their dreams.”

Barkley J. Dowdy

The second recipient of the Unsung Hero Award was Barkley J. Dowdy, a freshman at the Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology.

“Barkley has consistently made the Principal’s List for the last five years,” said Lee. “He is currently being considered to be one of 35 scholars to participate in Morehouse College’s Smash Program. That is an intensive, three-year, STEM-focused college prep program that empowers students to deepen their talents and pursue STEM careers. Barkley plans to study computer science over the next three summers. Following his high school graduation, Barkley aspires to attend Morehouse College to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science and to eventually become a gaming developer.”

The Charles P. Cole/Lou Belcher Award

The Charles P. Cole/Lou Belcher Award is granted to individuals for their dedication of time and energy serving the Rockdale community.

Susan Paul Smith

Lee announced this year’s recipient as Susan Paul Smith.

“Smith has served the Rockdale community for more than 30 years,” said Lee. “She has served as the director of student relations as well as the PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) district coordinator for Rockdale County Public Schools, and has served as project director for the Safe Schools/Healthy Students initiative.

“Currently, Smith is the co-chair of the Kimberley Chance Atkins Foundation, chairwoman of the Rockdale Coalition for Children and Families, and is a board member of the Rockdale County Public Schools Foundation.”

Dedicated Service Award

The Dedicated Service Award is given to individuals who are relentless in their pursuit of serving their communities through outstanding leadership.

Fred Straub

Fred Straub was named this year’s recipient of the Dedicated Service Award by Lee.

“Straub has been a Rockdale County resident since 1968,” she said. “In the early years, he was employed in the trucking business before his career in commercial real estate. Straub came to be very well known in and around Rockdale County by residents, as well as city and county leaders.

“He began serving on the SPLOST Citizens Oversight Committee in 1988 when the library was built. Straub has been a member of the SPLOST committee and one of the program’s biggest advocates since that time. He speaks at various organizations and groups to educate the public on what SPLOST provides for this county and its citizens. Straub has served as the chairperson of the SPLOST Finance Subcommittee, and currently serves as the chairperson of the SPLOST Transportation Subcommittee.

“Straub is perhaps most well-known by those in Olde Town Conyers as a member of ‘the breakfast club’ that meets at Beasley Drug Company,” Lee continued. “Before the pandemic you could find him at the soda fountain on most mornings sharing stories with the regulars there. He is also known and well-respected by our staff, and not just for his amazing cheesecakes.

“In his free time, Straub is an avid hunter. He and his wife Kathy live in the Honey Creek area and have two daughters, Jennifer and Karen, one son, Gus, and six grandchildren that they adore.”


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Salvation Army to administer ARPA assistance for renters, homeowners
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COVINGTON — Newton County renters and homeowners adversely impacted by the pandemic are one step closer to receiving assistance under the American Rescue Plan Act.

County Attorney Patrick Jaugstetter updated the Board of Commissioners Tuesday on the county’s agreement with the local Salvation Army to administer distribution of the funding.

Jaugstetter said the Salvation Army will charge a 15% administrative fee for funds that are distributed under the agreement.

The county has not yet announced when applications for the assistance will be accepted.

Here are the details:

♦ A total of $700,000 will go toward rent, mortgage and utility assistance.

♦ $400,000 has been set aside to help renters and homeowners

♦ $300,000 has been earmarked for utility payment assistance

♦ To be eligible, applicants must have 150% or less of the median household income as established by the 2020 Census.

♦ The county will allocate $175,000 per quarter to the Salvation Army to distribute.

Newton County has received $10.8 million in ARPA funds and expects to receive a similar amount again in May.

A committee made up of Jaugstetter and Commissioners Stan Edwards and Alana Sanders has recommended several broad areas to receive the first round of funding, as follows:

♦ COVID incentive program — $300,000

♦ COVID vaccination kits — $100,000

♦ COVID rapid response kits — $95,000

♦ Mental health and substance abuse — $100,000

♦ Marketing and signage — $5,000

♦ Renters and homeowners assistance — $400,000

♦ Utilities assistance — $300,000

♦ Nonprofit capacity building and operating support — $400,000

♦ Small busienss recovery and restart program — $400,000

♦ Youth engagement — $150,000

♦ Food security — $200,000

♦ One-time premium pay — $1.4 million (with an additional $500,000 from contingency)

♦ Increase broadband in underserved areas — $1 million

♦ Home repair assistance — $500,000

♦ Program management — $350,000

♦ District assistance — $1 million allocated to each commissioner


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Rockdale Sheriff's Office seeks public's help in solving bicyclist's murder
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CONYERS — The Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office is requesting the public’s help in identifying the person who shot and killed a bicyclist last May.

Kelvin Battle, 34, of Covington was shot multiple times while riding his bicycle on Salem Road at the intersection with Golfview Drive. Battle was shot on May 24. Deputies responded to a person down call at about 4:45 a.m. and found Battle lying on the ground with his bicycle. He was transported to a local hospital where he died several days later.

The RCSO is asking anyone who may have any information about this incident to contact Investigator J. Figueroa at 770-278-8044 or 470-606-7073.


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