County waiting on Newborn agreement

COVINGTON - County commissioners are holding off on approving an intergovernmental agreement to provide planning and development services to the Town of Newborn until they get assurance from the town attorney that the document is legal and binding.

The county has historically provided the service for Newborn, which does not have its own planning and development department. In exchange, the county keeps all permit and other fees collected on Newborn's behalf.

However, District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing said he's not comfortable approving the agreement until he's sure the town council plans to honor it.

"I'm concerned about this agreement in view of the fact that Newborn has seen fit not to honor the agreement regarding the Newton County, Newborn and Mansfield fire station," Ewing said at the board's June 16 meeting.

Commissioners agreed to table the matter until they receive a letter from town attorney Joe Reitman stating that he has read and understands the agreement and that it will be a binding document.

"We went through all of the legal work on the fire station over a period of a couple of years and all of that was submitted to the (Newborn) council and attorney, and it was my understanding the attorney had approved everything before the council voted to approve it," Ewing said Monday. However, Reitman recently sent a letter to the county stating that the contract for the fire station was not legal.

The Newborn Council had entered into a contract with Newton County and the city of Mansfield committing its annual insurance premium tax to maintenance and operations of Fire Station No. 6, located on Ga. Highway 213. But council members later said they approved the contract under pressure from the county and Newborn citizens and now wanted to use the money for other purposes.

The council voted not to pay an invoice from Newton County for $28,443 because the last insurance premium tax disbursement the town received in late 2007 covered collections for the year 2006, predating the town's agreement with the county, according to Councilwoman Suzanne Bean.

Based on this interpretation, the disbursement the town will receive later this year covering 2007 would be owed to the county.

Reitman said the town has a policy that the attorney is to review all contracts prior to signing, but he said he did not review the final contract for the fire station, adding that it must have been approved at a meeting he did not attend. Reitman said the town cannot afford to pay him to attend every meeting.

"I'm glad to see Newton County is taking the cautious approach and asking if I've reviewed the contract before signing off," he said.

Reitman said he saw a draft of the agreement in April, and assuming the document has not changed, he would have no problem signing off on it.

Once that happens, Ewing said he'll present a motion to approve the agreement.

"I'm not opposed to it. I just don't want to go through the hassle we did on the fire station," Ewing said. "I would like for us to provide the service, just like I want us to provide fire service. I want to be cooperative, and the county wants to be cooperative, but at the same time, we feel like Newborn needs to hold up their agreement."