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County to condemn land for Bear Creek

COVINGTON - County commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday night to condemn property owned by Emmett Denby in order to construct Bear Creek Reservoir. The land is the last residential property the county must acquire to build the reservoir.

Denby and his wife, Rhonda Jean, live at 3124 Henderson Mill Road on a tract that will be underwater when the reservoir is completed.

Denby has been an outspoken opponent of the project, and has said that he is the lone resident to hold out and not sell his property to the county.

Denby could not be reached for comment for this story. A source with the Newton County Attorney's Office said he could not comment on the pending condemnation.

Commissioners discussed the condemnation during executive session, which is not open to the public, after the regular board meeting Tuesday night, then re-entered regular session and approved the resolution.

District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson was opposed to proceeding with condemnation. Henderson also did not return calls seeking comment.

Proposed for southeast Newton on land purchased by the county in 1996 along with Gaither Plantation, the 1,308-acre reservoir will yield 28 million gallons of water per day, with supplemental pumping from the Alcovy River, County Attorney Tommy Craig previously stated.

The reservoir is expected to meet Newton County's water needs through the year 2050; the population by then may top 360,000, according to a study by environmental consultants hired by the county.

According to officials, the reservoir will not be needed to meet water demands until around 2018.

A public meeting on the project was held in March. At that time, Craig said it would take 12 to 15 months to obtain a permit for the reservoir.

Denby was escorted out during that meeting by Newton County Sheriff's Office deputies after he grabbed a microphone out of turn.

As Denby was hauled away, he held up a roll of duct tape. "They're taping my mouth up people, taping my mouth up," he yelled.

Denby made his second unsuccessful bid for chairman of the Board of Commissioners this year.

Commissioners also approved a resolution to condemn approximately one-tenth of an acre of buffer and flood easement for the project. The property is owned by an estate, and the county has been unable to establish contact with the property owner's children, according to a source with the County Attorney's Office.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.