Details short on the District 4 SPLOST projects

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- There are scant specific details available on just what projects designated as District 4 improvements will entail if SPLOST is approved.

A total of $1.1 million has been allocated at the request of District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson, who said he proposed all the projects based on requests from his constituents.

On the list is $545,000 for a multi-use community facility. Henderson has deferred questions on this project to the Newton County Ministers Union. The organization's president, Willie Smith, said the facility is intended to be a workforce development center to train residents to perform jobs for local businesses and industries. He could not answer questions on specifically what type of training would be provided.

"Whatever is necessary for the company, we'll try to meet the demand of the institution that is asking us for it," Smith said. "We'll pursue them and they'll tell us what they need."

Smith said though the county will be responsible for the facility, there may be money available from the state and federal departments of labor to pay for programming and operations costs.

Eventually, a wellness clinic could also be located there to serve the uninsured population, he said.

Smith said there has not been a location selected for the facility. Early reports that it would include a homeless shelter are not true, he said.

Chairman Kathy Morgan stressed that the intergovernmental agreement approved by the county and cities states only that the money will be used for a "multi-use community facility" in District 4. The Board of Commissioners will have to approve the use as well as a business plan and all associated plans and costs prior to construction, she said.

Details of how the $500,000 for recreation projects will be used are also a bit sketchy. Henderson proposed that the money be used for playgrounds and parks in Victoria's Station, Dinah Pace and Settlers Grove subdivisions. However, Morgan again emphasized that no specific neighborhoods are mentioned in the intergovernmental agreement. Whatever recreation projects are completed will fall under the Newton County Recreation Commission, she said.

Finally, $55,000 has been allocated for purchase of property for an indigent cemetery. The land may not be located in District 4, Henderson said, adding that there is a need for a burial spot for indigents. Henderson said the cemetery proposal came from Coroner Tommy Davis, but Davis said in a previous interview that while there is a need, he would suggest the county look at locating the cemetery on property it already owns, and that he did not request the county purchase additional property.

"I do believe it's time we take an acre of land and designate it as a pauper's cemetery for Newton County. The county could provide the service of opening and closing the graves and purchasing a minimal cost casket and provide that for the citizens," Davis said.

As required by state law, Newton County is responsible for providing a decent burial for indigent residents. The county pays $300 in such cases and relies on the funeral homes to verify indigent status. The county assisted with five indigent burials in 2007; 15 in 2008; three in 2009; and 10 in 2010.

Henderson could not provide details on whether that policy would change if the indigent cemetery is purchased.