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Rivian announcement could be imminent
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COVINGTON — An announcement that electric auto maker Rivian Automotive will build a massive plant in the Morgan and Walton county area, just east of Newton County, could come as early as Thursday.

Although local economic development officials cannot comment on the possible announcement, sources close to the negotiations at the state level have confirmed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the company will build its second assembly and battery plant on property known as the East Atlanta Mega Site, owned by the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Newton, Morgan and Walton Counties. It is expected that details about the amount of the economic development investment, the size of the facility and the number of jobs potentially created will be announced by Gov. Brian Kemp Thursday.

The East Atlanta Mega Site is marketed as a 1,000-plus acre site on the north side of Interstate 20 across from the Takeda biopharma plant in Stanton Springs. The property has access to a CSX rail line and the Savannah and Charleston ports. The property lies within Walton and Morgan counties, near Rutledge and Social Circle, and along Davis Academy Road.

If California-based Rivian does decide to locate in the area, its investment could dwarf the Facebook and Takeda developments already located in Stanton Springs. The auto maker already has one plant in Normal, Ill., where it began producing vehicles in September. The company, which went public in November, is valued at more than $100 billion.

Rivian already manufactures electric R1T pickup trucks at its plant in Normal and intends to produce R1S sport utility vehicles by the end of this year. Amazon has reportedly ordered 100,000 delivery vans from Rivian.

Rivian had been in negotiations with Fort Worth, Texas, for months as a possible location for its second manufacturing facility, but those negotiations have apparently gone cold. According to the Dallas Morning News, a company presumed to be Rivian had considered building a factory there producing as many as 200,000 vehicles a year and creating thousands of jobs.


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Dec. 18 Bicentennial Bash to mark Newton County's 200th year
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COVINGTON — The year-long commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Newton County’s founding reaches its pinnacle on Saturday, Dec. 18 with a celebration on the downtown Covington Square.

The Bicentennial Birthday Bash will run from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. and will include activities, fireworks, giveaways and a performance by the Kollaboration Live Band, said Bryan Fazio, the county’s public information officer and a member of the Newton County Bicentennial Committee.

“It will be a big show, like the Fourth of July, and we’ll have some special fireworks for the occasion starting at 7 p.m.” said Fazio. “We just want people to come out and celebrate together this monumental occasion.”

The event will also include a tribute to a host of Newton County citizens who will be honored with 2021 Bicentennial Awards. Recipients include Archie Shepherd (Bicentennial Award), Rev. James T. Walden Sr. (Chairman’s Award), Dr. Laklieshia Izzard (One Newton Award), Jackie Smith (One Newton Award), We Ride to Provide (Non-Profit Award) and Fletcher’s Jewelry (Hometown Business Award).

Fazio also said that Newton County Commission Chairman Marcello Banes and the mayors from the county’s municipalities will be presenting items to put in a time capsule that will be placed in the park (formerly called Rotary Park) behind the county Administration Building. In addition, legacy bricks will be offered for sale to be placed on the walkway between the Administration Building and the historic county courthouse.

The Bash is the latest (and final) activity planned by the eight-person Bicentennial Committee. Other events have included service days in each of the commission districts, community clean-ups, proclamations for the municipalities, the Newton County School System, the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority and the Georgia Legislature, and free screenings at Legion Field of films produced in the area.

Banes said he’s been pleased with the work of the eight-person Bicentennial Committee and added he looks forward to a fun evening.

“We’ve had a great team assembled to work on our bicentennial celebration, and they came together and saw the vision and went to work,” he said. “They worked really hard at putting the monthly celebrations together and now here we are, getting ready for the big birthday.

“We’re excited about it, and we hope there will be a great turnout. We hope it will be something for the community to enjoy. It’s a family-friendly event with fireworks.”

When asked his feelings about leading the county during its 200th year, Banes said, “It’s amazing to me. Our slogan is ‘200 Years Behind Us/OneNewton Ahead Of Us,’ and I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead this community and be the chair of this great county that we all know and love.

“It’s such a wonderful time to lead this community because of all the wonderful things that are going on. This community has grown by leaps and bounds, and I am grateful for this opportunity to be leading at this time in our history.”

For more information about the Bicentennial Birthday Bash and the Legacy Brick Program, visit www.co.newton.ga.us/504/Newton-County-200.


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Newton founded on Christmas Eve 1821

COVINGTON — While Newton County is most frequently identified by its iconic Second Empire courthouse on the Covington Square, the county’s center of activity at the time it was formed was 10 miles east at the Brick Store community.

Newton County was created by the state Legislature on Dec. 24, 1821, from parts of Henry, Jasper, and Walton counties. The county was named for Sgt. John Newton, a Revolutionary soldier and companion of Sgt. Jasper, the namesake of adjoining Jasper County.

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, the county seat was later moved to Covington under a state requirement that the county seat be as close as possible to the geographical center of the county. The new town was named Newtonsboro, but eight months later, in December 1822, the name was changed to Covington, in honor of General Leonard Covington, a hero in the War of 1812.


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Brian A. Kelley named new director of Rockdale County Transportation Department
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CONYERS — Brian Kelley was expected to be formally approved as the new Rockdale County director of transportation at the Board of Commissioners Dec. 14 voting session. Kelley becomes the third director the transportation department has had in less than three years.

John A. Moretto was named RDOT director in January 2020, succeeding Brian Allen, who had been director since 2017. Moretto served in that position for approximately 20 months, resigning his position in August of last year. Chief of Staff James Cabe has been serving as interim director while the county looked for a new director.

At the BOC work session on Dec. 7, Toni Holmes, director of Talent Management for the county, shared some information about Kelley with the commissioners.

“He is coming to us with 10 years project management and construction experience,” she said. “He has transportation systems, bridge, heavy civil rail, transit, construction engineering, and inspection experience. He is also coming to us with five years experience in commercial structures and aviation. He is a professional engineer in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, and has a bachelor of science degree in architectural engineering from Tennessee State University.”

Cabe advised the commissioners that he had already spoken with Kelley during the interview process and said Kelley would be hitting the ground running.

“He’ll go through new employee orientation on Monday,” said Cabe, “but Tuesday we’re getting right to work. He and I will be joined at the hip for the rest of the week, and I have a series of meetings set up with all of our consultants that provide engineering services. Also, we have 25 different (transportation) projects that are either in progress, about to be started, or planning for the future, so there is a lot involved not only with meeting the key personnel who are involved with those projects, but also the operations of the county. I really do think that his talents are going to be a benefit to the county.”

Commission Chair Oz Nesbitt Sr. noted that residents in the Lake Capri and McCart Landing communities are ready for the county to get busy on the bridge on Rockbridge Road.

“During the transition from one director to the next, we’ve been waiting to get that project back on track,” said Nesbitt. “There have been some upgrades and improvements in the McCart Landing subdivision. I pointed this out particularly because the bridge being out on Rockbridge Road has been a significant barrier on the community and on public safety.”

District 1 Commissioner Sherri Washington added that the unpaved road at Flat Shoals Road in the southern part of the county has also been generating a lot of calls and messages on a daily basis.

Cabe responded to Washington by saying that part of the plan is “to personally introduce him (Kelley) to the citizens who have vested interests and concerns, so that they can have a one-on-one introduction with the new director so that they can know that somebody is focusing on their concerns.”

Cabe added that on the Rockbridge Road bridge project, all of the documents have been provided to the procurement department so that they can start the bid process.

“The ball is consistently rolling,” he said. “Even though everyone may not physically see any kind of work taking place, there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make sure that this is done correctly.”


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238 children in Rockdale County receive free bikes for the holidays
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A number of Rockdale County families gathered in Atlanta Dec. 11 where 238 children received free bikes, thanks to the generosity of Community Action NOW. The effort was made possible through Community Action NOW’s partnership with Free Bikes 4 Kidz (FB4K) Atlanta and numerous private donors.

“We are so thankful for this partnership with FB4K Atlanta for making this possible,” said Iffat Walker, executive director of Community Action NOW. “We look forward to making this an annual initiative for families in Rockdale. Most of our bike recipients were children between the ages of 6-17. These donations have lessened the financial burden on many parents this holiday. The children selected to receive bikes were referred to Community Action NOW from numerous Rockdale County nonprofit agencies to include, but not limited to Unidos Latinos, CDI Head Start, Viewpoint Nest along with requests from the general public.

Walker said the group plans to move the event closer to home next year.

“We realize and understand that transportation was truly a barrier for many parents,” she said. “Next year we will host the bike donation in Rockdale County. We are asking the community in advance to assist us in transporting bikes to Rockdale County to make this possible next year.”

Free Bikes 4 Kidz Atlanta is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization geared towards helping all kids ride into a happier, healthier childhood by providing bikes to those most in need.

Community Action NOW is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to provide those in underserved communities with resources to combat poverty through social justice advocacy, disaster management, education, and outreach services. For more information about the agency and how you can support its work, please send an email request to: info@communityactionnow.org.


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