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Five candidates qualify to run for three Covington council seats
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COVINGTON — With Hawnethia Williams’ decision to retire instead of seeking re-election, the Covington City Council will have at least one new member in 2022 and possibly two as Susie Keck will face opposition for her post.

Qualifying ended Friday for the three council positions that will be on the Nov. 2 ballot. The candidates who qualified are:

West Ward, Post 2

♦ Charika Davis

♦ George Scott Scoggins

West Ward, Post 3

♦ Anthony Henderson, Incumbent

East Ward, Post 1

♦ Susie Keck, Incumbent

♦ Carla Ferry

Oct. 4 is the last day for city residents to register to vote in the election. Early in-person voting begins Oct. 12 at the Newton County Board of Elections Office at 1113 Usher Street, Suite 103 in Covington. The Newton County Board of Elections Office conducts the city election and is available to answer any questions about the upcoming election by contacting 770-784-2955 or visiting www.co.newton.ga.us.

Bare granite will turn brilliant during Daisy Days

Get out of the house, get some fresh air and enjoy the beautiful yellow daisies that are growing around metro Atlanta with the Daisy Days Triple Hike Challenge, running throughout September.

The triple-hike event is free (although parking may require a small fee). Participants must hike three of four possible mountains to earn the prize: Arabia Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain, Panola Mountain and Stone Mountain. You can hike on your own or join a guided hike at some sites (note: Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve and Stone Mountain Memorial Association are not currently offering guided hikes; you can still sign up for guided hikes at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and Panola Mountain State Park).

As you go, fill out your passport to win a daisy-themed prize. Presented by the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance, Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Panola Mountain State Park and the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, this event invites you to step into Autumn by hiking Georgia’s granite monadnocks.

The yellow daisies (Helianthus porteri) are native to the rock outcrops of the Southeastern United States, especially in the granite formations of the Georgia Piedmont region. The metro Atlanta area has a high concentration of the daisies, which bloom on massive granite mountains. While these rock outcrops seem barren, especially during the scorching summers, fall and winter see a profusion of wildflowers grow out of patches of thin soil called “solution pits.” The Daisy Days Triple Hike Challenge is an opportunity to celebrate the botanical bounty growing on the rock outcrops (also called “monadnocks”) as autumn begins. Participants will also receive a souvenir.

To learn more about the event and get a passport, visit https://arabiaalliance.org/activities/daisy-days/

Hikers are asked to remember to take safety precautions to maintain health and the health of others. That includes wearing a mask when around others and staying home if you feel sick.

The Daisy Days Triple Hike Challenge is the fall counterpart to the spring Monadnock Madness event, an outdoor extravaganza in which people can enjoy triple hikes, mountaintop yoga, photography workshops and dozens of other events throughout the month of March. Monadnock Madness accompanies another floral explosion on the granite outcrops, as plants such as the atamasco lily, granite stonecrop and diamorpha burst into vibrant spring bloom. Details for the 2022 Monadnock Madness will be announced in the spring.

Commissioner Alana Sanders claims cease and desist notice is a personal attack
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COVINGTON — A Newton County commissioner who has been told to stop holding exercise sessions for constituents at which “love offerings” are encouraged is firing back at the county, claiming the order is a personal attack.

Chairman Marcello Banes sent District 3 Commissioner Alana Sanders a cease and desist letter Aug. 18 upon the advice of County Attorney Megan Martin. Banes wrote that he had received numerous citizen complaints about Sanders using her official Facebook page and website to promote “free” exercise classes where attendees are encouraged to give a “love donation” to instructors. Sanders was listed as the instructor at a kick boxing class she hosted, but other classes have been taught by different instructors who Sanders said volunteer their time.

“The fliers and posts used to encourage attendance at these events give the distinct impression that this workout series is sponsored by Newton County,” Banes wrote.

“Seeking compensation for events associated with the ‘Newton Community Workout Series’ presents a conflict of interest if you are advertising events as county events and then accept remuneration for your fitness instruction,” Banes further wrote. “Your actions may be subject to review as explained in the county’s ethics ordinance.”

County Manager Lloyd Kerr said Monday the county is working on a policy to govern how events such as the workout sessions are carried out. In general, Kerr said, events that are “planned, executed and most times funded by the county, are county sponsored/hosted events. Other events are those that are planned, etc., by private citizens who happen to be commissioners.”

Sanders has conducted eight workout events with a final one planned for Aug. 28. The events are conducted in the parking lot outside of the Newton County Sheriff’s Office Westside Precinct.

Banes also pointed out that the workout series poses a potential liability for the county and said that all county-sponsored workout events should be conducted through the Recreation Department to ensure that they follow the county’s risk management policies and procedures. He also noted that the real estate management company for the shopping center had no knowledge that the workout series was being held in the parking lot. If a participant were injured, Banes wrote that could also present a legal liability for the shopping center and the county.

In a Facebook post Thursday, Sanders said the cease and desist letter from Banes was a personal attack and an attempt to divert public attention away from Banes’ purchasing card records.

“This is a sad day when the government does not want you to do public service,” she wrote. Sanders said she has been a public servant since the age of 12, and the workout sessions were simply another way for her to contribute to the community.

She also said she has not accepted any “love offerings” from workout participants. As a certified fitness professional, Sanders said she is trained to host events in a manner that is safe for the instructor and participants. All participants are asked to sign a waiver, she said.

Sanders also said she believes the negative attention was brought to the workout sessions by county resident Ann Neuhierl, who was “sent” to video the most recent workout session and documented the temperature in the mid- to upper 80s, with an air quality index of 65. Sanders said Neuhierl has made negative comments on Sanders’ Facebook page in the past.

Neuhierl said she made the video of her own volition because she was concerned about the “unhealthy and hot environment.” She said she taped 6 seconds to document the conditions.

Sanders also questioned why the workout sessions are being scrutinized now, even though she has mentioned them at Board of Commissioners meetings for the past four months.

“Yes, it’s a personal attack because if it wasn’t you would have said something in May when announced at every board meeting,” Sanders wrote in an email message to County Attorney Martin.

In a video she posted to Facebook, Sanders pointed out that she is the only female member of the BOC and has felt harassed and intimidated. Even though she is vice chair of the board, Sanders said she has never been asked to fill in for Banes and that her name has not been added to the county letterhead or any county proclamations issued since she took office in January.

Sanders has asked the county attorney for a number of documents that would support the county’s decision to send her a cease and desist letter.

Conyers Mayor Vince Evans to run unopposed for second term
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CONYERS — Mayor Vince Evans will be elected unopposed to a second term after no one qualified to run against him in the upcoming Nov. 2 municipal elections.

Five other candidates qualified last week to fill three seats on the City Council. Two contenders — Eric Fears and Leslie Lambert — qualified to run for the District 1 seat after long-time incumbent Cleveland Stroud announced earlier this summer that he would not seek re-election.

Three candidates qualified to run for the District 2/Post 1 seat that was vacated last year by the resignation of Blair Barksdale. They are Jason Cosby, Charles Bryant and Josie Giles.

Oct. 4 is the last day for city residents to register to vote in the 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's mask mandate does not conflict with governor's order, says city attorney
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COVINGTON — The city of Covington reinstated its mask mandate on Aug. 17 requiring anyone entering city properties to wear a mask. Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order on Aug. 19 prohibiting local governments in Georgia from imposing mask, vaccine or building-capacity mandates aiming at discouraging the spread of COVID-19.

But according to Covington City Attorney Frank Turner, the governor’s order protects small businesses and the city’s mask mandate does not conflict with Kemp’s order.

“I have read the governor’s order, and it is focused exclusively on protecting small businesses from the overreach of any kind of mandatory local mask ordinances,” Turner told the Citizen on Aug. 20. “Covington’s (mandate) has never applied to any kind of private business or organization, unless they voluntarily elect to have it apply to them, and that is still allowed under the governor’s new order, so Covington’s mask mandate on public property does not run afoul of the governor’s executive order.”

The Covington City Council originally passed a mask resolution for city properties on Dec. 8, 2020, in response to a rise in COVID-19 cases. When cases were on the decline earlier this year, the city relaxed the mandate, but at the City Council meeting on Aug. 16, Mayor Steve Horton announced that the mask resolution is still in effect on city properties since the number of COVID-19 cases in Newton County now exceeds 100 per 100,000 over a two-week period. Newton County is currently in the high transmission category for COVID-19.

The following guidelines are outlined in the mask resolution:

1. Individuals will be required to wear a face covering on city properties.

2. Face coverings aren’t mandated on private property, but the council is encouraging businesses to institute the mandatory mask resolution.

3. Masks are not required to be medical grade so long as they cover the nose and mouth. Bandanas, scarves and other similar fabrics are allowed.

4. Businesses within city limits may indicate that they require masks on their property by posting a notice at each entrance accessible to the public.

5. Masks are not required while eating or drinking or if socially distanced at least 6 feet apart.

6. The Covington Police Department will enforce the ordinance on all public property and any private property that chooses to require masks. Any individual who fails to be in compliance with this order is subject to a $50 fine.