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SPLOST list for Newton is approved

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The list of SPLOST projects proposed by Commissioner Mort Ewing passed by a vote of 4-1 Tuesday night, but not before one commissioner made a last ditch effort to change it.

Before a vote was cast, Commissioner Nancy Schulz made a substitute motion to approve a new list, which removed funding for a $1.1 million agricultural center, $1.1 million in District 4 improvements, including parks in private subdivisions, and a homeless shelter/community center and $100,000 for fire equipment, which she said could be paid for through the fire fund. Schulz proposed increasing the payoff of debt and improvements to existing parks instead.

"I've heard from many constituents over the past few weeks, and I feel that leaving these two items on this list places this SPLOST at risk," Schulz said, referring to the agricultural center and the District 4 projects. "The public perceives these two items as pork. They perceive these are based on special interests and that these items have not been properly vetted. I believe that leaving these items on this list places this SPLOST in jeopardy."

Her motion failed by a vote of 3-2, with Commissioner Earnest Simmons the lone supporter. Simmons said he would not support Ewing's proposal because it does not include books for the new library, which is short on resources and is set to open in January, and because it does not include funding to complete the civic center that was approved in the 2005 SPLOST.

Schulz ultimately voted in favor of the SPLOST as proposed by Ewing.

"The voters did not put us in this office to play political games, but to be responsible and to make mature decisions," she said. "The lack of deliberation and transparency in the selection of this project list is frankly disappointing to me. We are better than this. And we cannot continue on this path. However, I believe this SPLOST is too important to Newton County. I do not want to put Newton County at risk over $2.2 million."

The cities must approve an intergovernmental agreement before the board passes a resolution calling for the March 15 referendum, which it is expected to do at its Jan. 4 meeting. Thus far, Oxford, Porterdale and Newborn have approved the agreement.