Henderson criticizes county BOC

J.C. Henderson

J.C. Henderson

COVINGTON -- District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson has written a letter to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs criticizing the Board of Commissioners and requesting that federal funding to the county be stopped.

In a Nov. 3 letter to the DCA, Henderson alleges that the Board of Commissioners has a double standard when it comes to running community facilities.

He claims that the Board of Commissioners is "doing whatever it takes" to accommodate District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz and the residents she represents in Fairview Estates, the site of the county's Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The county plans to buy, rehabilitate and resell foreclosed properties and build a public park there.

Meanwhile, he said, "The board of commissioners don't want J.C. Henderson, or any one in the communit(y) to have anything to do with their community center, they want it to be rain (sic) by people who don't live in that community."

Henderson said he wants a committee of community members to run the facility, similar to Friends of Gaither, the volunteer group that manages Gaither Plantation.

He also claims that the county is funding the formation of a homeowner's association in Fairview Estates, as well as amenities such as a clubhouse and pool that will be turned over to the association but will be maintained by the Recreation Commission.

Henderson asked the DCA to provide a number at the federal level "to ask that all federal grants be stop (sic)" until county officials prove there is not a double standard "in doing for communit(ies) in Newton County."

He also said the people of Fairview Estates need clarification on what the NSP money will fund and how much the residents of Newton County will have to pay for the promises that have been made to the community.

However, Schulz said Tuesday that IECDG, the nonprofit that is administering the NSP for the county, is helping the residents form their homeowner's association. The residents will be responsible for paying for any amenities, and the Recreation Commission's only involvement will be with the public park, she said.

"I think Commissioner Henderson was misinformed and IECDG has been working with the residents of Fairview Estates to resolve their concerns," Schulz said, adding that at the last BOC meeting, many residents said they were in support of the project. "To interfere with that process was, I feel, an unfortunate turn of events and Commissioner Henderson didn't have all the facts."

Henderson's letter does not specify that he wants funding for the NSP program stopped. It states "all federal funding."

Schulz said if Henderson's attempts to cut off those funds from the county are successful, it "would be very unfortunate to the citizens of Newton County. We receive about $50 million in federal funding. I hope that was not something that was his intention, to stop $50 million coming into the county. That impacts the entire county, not just pockets of the county."

In a Nov. 9 letter addressed to Chairman Kathy Morgan, Glenn R. Misner, director of the Office of Field Services, said DCA's policy in handling Henderson's concerns is to require "all local remedies to be exhausted and that the Department of Community Affairs will only take action when there is a question of non-compliance with laws, regulations or locally adopted polices for the grant or program in question."

Misner requested a response from the county within 30 days, including findings and any remedial actions taken, along with pertinent documentation needed to support any findings.

Chairman Morgan could not be reached for comment. Numerous calls to Henderson were not returned.

Henderson helped form a 501(c)3 to run the Nelson Heights Community Center without approval from the BOC, according to Morgan and other commissioners.

County commissioners have agreed to let the Recreation Commission take over the new facility, located on Laseter Street, if its members determine that would be feasible.

The Recreation Commission sent a letter to the BOC stating that it would manage the facility if several stipulations were met.

Among those stipulations was an assurance that there would be no outside interference from the Nelson Heights 501(c)3 board. The commission also raised the concern that it could face outside pressure from Henderson, who sits on the Recreation Commission.

Following receipt of that letter, Henderson tried to rescind his earlier vote to allow the Recreation Commission to take over the facility, but the BOC would not amend the agenda to allow him to do that.

Most recently, Henderson wrote a letter asking that the BOC consider having dual boards run the center -- the Recreation Commission and a board comprised of community members.

A work session scheduled Tuesday night to discuss the management of the center was postponed.