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The Center is what's 'right with region'

COVINGTON - The Center for Community Preservation and Planning has received a Regional Excellence Award from The Civic League for Regional Atlanta.

The award recognizes individuals, organizations or initiatives that demonstrate extraordinary commitment to creating a better Atlanta region.

This is the first time the Civic League has given the awards. The Center was one of four winners selected from 30 nominees.

Hosanna Fletcher, who works at The Center, accepted the award Tuesday night at the League's "What's Right With the Region!" event at the Atlanta History Center.

"We just felt so honored," Fletcher said. "To be identified with what's right with the region is so prestigious. It's just amazing, especially because (Newton County) is still considered on the fringes of the Atlanta region."

The Center was nominated by a Civic League board member, Fletcher said.

A Civic League spokeswoman said winners had to demonstrate an ongoing impact in their community.

The Center provides a neutral planning space for local governments, often taking on the public education and meeting requirements for projects. The Center also assists with grant applications.

"We're kind of like a local U.N. We're a clearinghouse of information for Newton County residents. We try to have up-to-date resources about our county. We're a neutral planning space where citizens and elected officials can come together on level ground and sit at the table and talk," Fletcher said.

More than 50 county leaders have partnered with The Center to create the Leadership Collaborative, with the purpose of working together in the face of rapid growth to achieve community sustainability.

As a result of the collaborative, the Board of Commissioners, city of Covington, Board of Education and Water and Sewerage Authority have agreed to align their budgets to a fiscal year running from July 1 to June 30 to allow for better cooperation on joint projects.

Other projects The Center has facilitated include the Living Centers Initiative Study; the Newton County Comprehensive Transportation Plan; the Gaither Plantation Master Plan; a county study of transferable development rights; and an update of the Covington zoning and development regulations.

The Arnold Fund, a local philanthropic organization, provided seed money to start The Center, which opened its doors on Washington Street in 2002. Though The Arnold Fund still provides financial support, more than 50 percent of operating costs are paid for through project fees.

The Center's director, Kay Lee, is the main reason it has been successful in achieving its mission, Fletcher said. Lee was unable to attend the event in Atlanta due to illness.

"Without her, The Center wouldn't still be existing. She's really the catalyst that keeps this thing going," Fletcher said.

For more information on The Center, visit www.thecenter-newton.org.

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