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New large-scale development at Stanton Springs will be data center
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COVINGTON — The new large-scale development at Stanton Springs will be another data center, according to documents related to a bond issue for the project.

The Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton Counties, which owns Stanton Springs, has agreed to sell about 600 acres to Baymare LLC and issue $42 billion in taxable revenue bonds for the project — the same amount that was issued for the Facebook data center project in 2018.

“We are very excited about a new high technology company coming to town,” said Serra Hall, vice president of Project Development for the Newton County Industrial Development Authority. “We are thrilled that they are going to make an investment here and are excited about the commitment to the community.”

In an agreement similar to the one executed between the JDA and Facebook, school and county property taxes for Project Baymare will be abated during construction, although the company will make payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOT payments.

The project will include four possible phases, with the first costing $750,000,000. Once a final certificate of occupancy is issued for Phase 1 — or on April 30, 2027 at the latest — Baymare will pay $2 million in PILOT payments to the four counties in the JDA. Upon completion of each of three subsequent phases, or on specified dates, Baymare will pay an additional $1 million in PILOT payments, making the total cumulative PILOT payment in 2032 $5 million. The PILOT payments will be made regardless of whether or not all four phases are constructed.

The PILOT payments will be distributed to the four counties that developed Stanton Springs based on their percentage of investment. Newton and Walton counties will each receive 37.5 percent, while Morgan County will receive 15 percent and Jasper County 10 percent.

The bond documents specifically state that the bonds do not constitute a debt or liability of the state or of the four counties, the JDA or any other local government entity.

If all four phases of Project Baymare are constructed, the project will encompass more than 2 million square feet. The first phase is projected to be 900,000 square feet. The company is expected to employ 300 people at full build-out.

As part of the agreement with Baymare, the JDA will construct a two-lane frontage road north of I-20 between U.S. Highway 278 and Sewell Road and a new spur south of I-20 between the bridge and the company’s property boundary. Baymare has agreed to contribute up to $3 million toward the road project. Newton County is expected to handle all permitting for the project, based on the Development Services Department’s previous experience with large projects like Takeda and Facebook.

The bonds issued by the JDA are known as “phantom bonds,” in a process in which the authority issues the bonds, which will then be purchased by Baymare. The authority will take title to the project and lease it to Baymare. The authority’s ownership of the project will make it tax exempt.

Baymare will make lease payments that will cover the debt service on the bonds. However, since Baymare is purchasing the bonds, no money will actually change hands.

Baymare will pay the JDA a bond issuance fee of $1.5 million.

Sheriffs Ezell Brown and Eric Levett among pioneers honored by Rep. Hank Johnson
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DECATUR — In honor of Black History Month, Congressman Hank Johnson recognized four local sheriffs and a groundbreaking Georgia General Assembly secretary with Pioneer Awards for their service to Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District — and their work to break down barriers and make history in the state.

“We are currently living in a pandemic, and we will not be able to host an in-person event, but that fact does not take away from the accomplishments these pioneers have achieved,” said Johnson. “We will all continue to work together to carry the torch from honorees like Pioneer Award recipient Mrs. Lillian Foston Walker, who has truly blazed a trail for us to follow.”

The five pioneers being honored are:

♦ Sheriff Melody Maddox is DeKalb County’s first woman to hold the office. As a 28-year law enforcement veteran, Maddox is also a lifelong resident of DeKalb County. Sheriff Maddox served DeKalb County and the city of Atlanta before becoming the assistant chief of police at Georgia Piedmont Technical College. Before being appointed DeKalb County’s sheriff, Maddox served as the department’s chief of administration, later becoming chief deputy. Sheriff Maddox is highly trained in defense tactics and hostage negotiation.

♦ Sheriff Ezell Brown is Newton County’s first African-American sheriff and served in local law enforcement in Newton for more than 35 years before being elected sheriff. He is also the county’s first African-American captain. Brown began his career in law enforcement in 1973 with the Covington Police Department as a patrolman. Since joining the county’s sheriff office in 1977, he has served in every capacity of the department from deputy sheriff to lieutenant. Brown also created Georgia’s first sex offender residential mapping system. Brown says that some of his most memorable experiences in law enforcement were providing security for the Ku Klux Klan and dismantling illegal liquor stills in the late 1980s.

♦ Sheriff Eric Levett was born and raised in Rockdale County and is the first African-American sheriff in Rockdale history. His passion for the local sheriff’s department began at the age of 14 when he joined their Law Enforcement Explorer Program. Levett has dedicated his entire career to protecting and serving Rockdale County: working as a 9-1-1 dispatcher; detention deputy; school resource officer; deputy sheriff; peace officer and a law enforcement coordinator.

♦ Sheriff Keybo Taylor is Gwinnett County’s first African-American sheriff. Taylor is a native of Lawrenceville. He joined the Gwinnett County Police Department in 1983. Taylor also served as a lieutenant in the department and was the first African American to achieve the rank of major, overseeing the East and South precincts. Taylor also served as a certified General Post instructor and a certified crisis prevention trainer.

♦ Lillian Foston Walker is the first African-American Secretary for the Georgia General Assembly. She served under then State Senator Leroy Johnson. Sen. Johnson was ♦ a pioneer in his own right, serving as the first African-American state senator, elected in 1962. Walker is a 91-year-old, Georgia native and mother of four children, eight grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren. She loves swimming, listening to gospel music and reading the Bible.

Walker also stood tall in taking on social injustices in her own way. Some examples of this fight included not giving up her and her daughter’s seat on a Greyhound Bus when asked for the seat by white men; shopping for dresses for herself and her daughter when white women wanted her to leave department stores in Atlanta; and fighting for equal health care for everyone at Grady Hospital.

“I look forward to Sheriff Taylor joining myself along, with sheriffs Maddox, Levett and Brown, in rebuilding our communities and helping those who deserve a second chance after getting caught up in the system or falling on hard times,” said Johnson. “It was also important for me to honor a pioneer such as Mrs. Walker. We must give our heroes and sheroes our greatest respect. Today, we stand on their shoulders.”

Renovations underway at Nancy Guinn Library
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CONYERS — A ceremonial wall demolition was recently held at Nancy Guinn Memorial Library to officially kick off a major two-phase renovation project designed to provide an improved general library layout, a new teen area, upgraded technology, increased study rooms for public use, and enhanced exterior spaces for programs and reading.

Rockdale County Board of Commissioners Chairman Oz Nesbitt was in attendance for the project kick-off, along with Library Board representatives Sue Troff, chair; Joe O’Neal, vice chair; Beverly Thomas, treasurer; and library staff members D’Mario Elam and Rebeka Griffin.

Library Director Brenda Poku said she understands the intrinsic value libraries add to the community and wants to ensure that the renovations are harmonious with the overall vision to revitalize Olde Town Conyers. In particular, the greenspaces that surround the library are not currently being utilized to their full potential.

“Programs held outside of library walls are growing in popularity, and leveraging our library’s greenspace makes perfect sense,” said Poku.

The project will be funded through revenues collected under the 2016 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which allocated $1 million for the library.

The project is being overseen by the architectural firm Mcmillan Pazdan Smith Architecture, while Rick B General Contractors out of Marietta will head up constructing the redesigned interior and exterior spaces.

The library will remain open throughout the renovation process. Construction is expected to take approximately 10 months to complete.

The library’s Board of Trustees said some inconveniences to patrons can be expected; however, they believe the updated spaces will result in a library that better serves the community.

For more information contact serickson@conyersrockdalelibrary.org or visit http://conyersrockdalelibrary.org.