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State Rep. Henderson prods Newton County to begin distribution of ARPA funds
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COVINGTON — A proposal that Newton County hire a consultant to oversee the distribution of American Rescue Plan Act funds has been met with opposition by a member of the state House of Representatives.

Rep. Sharon Henderson, D-Covington, advised the Board of Commissioners Sept. 7 to select District 3 Commissioner Alana Sanders to “spearhead” a plan for distribution of the funds because Sanders is the only woman on the board.

Henderson said she had received numerous phone calls, emails and texts from residents expressing their concern about the amount of time it is taking to begin distribution of the funds. Sanders and District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson (no relation) have expressed similar concerns.

Newton County received $10,852,481 in ARPA funds in May and expects to receive a similar amount in May 2022. County Manager Lloyd Kerr proposed in August that the board hire a consultant to oversee the distribution of funds. The consultant would be responsible for 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. He noted that if the guidelines, which are still being developed, are not followed properly, the county would be liable for repaying the money.

But Rep. Henderson, who spoke at length at the Sept. 7 BOC meeting, said the money needs to be distributed now, especially in minority communities.

“The funds are there to assist the people of Newton County,” said Rep. Henderson. “It hurts me to my heart and grieves my spirit to see people evicted from their homes, especially Black and brown communities. Yes, we help all people — Black, white, red, blue — but the Black and brown communities have been left out and get the crumbs from the cake. And that’s been happening for years and centuries.”

Rep. Henderson was not on the agenda for the Sept. 7 meeting, but Chairman Marcello Banes granted her the time allotted for the Chairman’s Report to make her remarks. After speaking for more than 10 minutes, Banes attempted to interrupt her in order to begin the zoning public hearing that had been legally advertised to begin at 7:30 p.m. Henderson refused to yield the floor, forcing Banes to call a recess. He allowed her to complete her remarks later in the meeting after the zoning hearings had been conducted.

The New Depot Players brings ‘Crazy Ladies’ to Conyers
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The New Depot Players opens its latest production, “Those Crazy Ladies in the House on the Corner,” Thursday at the Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts Black Box Theater at 910 Center St., Conyers.

The play, a comedy written by Pat Cook and produced by special arrangement with Dramatic Publishing company, tells the story of three geriatric sisters whose lives are changed when they take in a nurse as a new roommate. In no time, Nurse Jean has the sisters planning parties, pulling Halloween pranks and wearing jogging suits while they race each other to the corner. But when the nephew shows up with a plan to sell the family house, things seem to get complicated again, especially with Christmas just around the corner. This heartwarming piece is loaded with wisecracks and one-liners that keep the laughter flowing.

The production is directed by Richard Diaz with set design by Rick Caruso. The cast of characters includes Dora Miller (Linda Oulton), Maggie Brown (Beth Clark), Lydia Van Horn (Cyndi Evans), Doc Lomax (Scott Mills), Jean Mitchell (Anna Grace Jones), Calvin Murphy (Nicolas Ballew), Phillip Van Horn (Justin Kitchens), Jessie (Susan Culver), and Blue (Brad Smith).

Performance dates are Sept. 23-26 and Sept. 30-Oct. 3. Show times Thursday through Saturday are 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students. Ticket prices do not include tax. To reserve will-call tickets call 678-374-3224 or order online at thenewdepotplayers.com. Masks are required at all performances.

Rockdale seniors seeking school tax exemption
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CONYERS — The Rockdale Voter Group is spearheading an effort to exempt some of the county’s senior citizens from the maintenance and operations portion of school property taxes.

The group is asking residents to sign an online petition supporting the tax exemption by visiting therockdalevoter.com. The organization is proposing that the exemption would apply to residents 67 years of age or older.

According to The Rockdale Voter Group, increasing property values along with increasing property tax rates are pricing seniors — many of whom are on fixed incomes — out of their homes or forcing them to cut spending on vital medicines, food or other expenses. The group points out that seniors will continue to pay the 1% Special Purpose Local Option Sales tax for education even if the exemption is granted.

In order for a senior citizen exemption to be allowed, a petition with a sufficient number of signatures will be submitted to Rockdale County's legislative delegation for introduction into the General Assembly. An exemption referendum could then be placed on a ballot for Rockdale County voters.

A number of counties in Georgia already offer some type of age-related exemption on school taxes. In addition, Georgia mandates a school property tax exemption for homeowners age 62 or older whose household income is $10,000 or less. Eligible taxpayers receive a $10,000 exemption from the assessed value of their primary residence for property taxes levied by any school district.

Several counties in the state — including DeKalb, Gwinnett, Cobb, Clayton and Fulton — offer a 100% exemption for seniors although all but Clayton place an income limit on the exemption.

Editor's note: This article was amended on Sept. 22, 2021 to reflect a change in the process of getting a referendum on the ballot.

Newborn man Trea Johnson convicted in 2018 murder
  • Updated

COVINGTON — A Newton County jury last week convicted a Newborn man on charges of malice murder, felony murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Trea Megill Johnson was convicted Sept. 16 in the murder of Wintez Moody, 22, and the armed robbery of two other victims. A pre-sentencing investigation was ordered by Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Foster, and Johnson will be sentenced at a later date.

According to the Newton County District Attorney’s Office, on Nov. 5, 2018, Johnson, who was 20 at the time, robbed two people at gunpoint after inviting them to his home in Newborn.

After the armed robbery, Johnson went to Moody’s home on Brookwood Drive and broke in using a brick to smash the glass back door. Moody called 911, and during the call identified Johnson as the intruder. A gun shot could then be heard on the 911 recording, followed by Moody telling the operator, “He shot me, he just shot me, I’m bleeding.”

Moody died due to the gunshot wound he sustained. During the investigation, it was discovered that Johnson and Moody had argued on social media and via text messages a few days prior to the murder. Johnson, while knowing that police were looking for him, ran for approximately two days from law enforcement and was apprehended in Kennesaw on Nov. 7 with the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Task Force.

The case was prosecuted by Chief Assistant District Attorney Amber Dally, Assistant District Attorney Eliazette Johnson, Investigator Josh Shumate and Victim Advocate Director Leslie Smith. The Newton County Sheriff’s Office conducted the initial investigation with Investigator Jeff Alexander leading.