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Tuesday's BOC meeting canceled: Work session on firearms discharge to be held at later date

COVINGTON -- Tuesday's Board of Commissioners meeting has been cancelled. Chairman Keith Ellis said the only item that was to be considered was the amendment to the county's firearms discharge ordinance proposed by Sheriff Ezell Brown, and that item would have been postponed in order to set a date for a work session on the matter and to give the public more opportunity for input. Ellis said he expects the work session will take place either before the BOC's March 19 or April 2 meeting, but a definite time and date has not been set.

Ellis said a majority of commissioners agreed it is imperative to get citizen feedback on the issue.

"We want to make sure we try and get it correct without juggling too many things at once," he said.

The BOC will still be meeting for a 6 p.m. work session on the proposed Salem Overlay Tuesday in the Newton County Historic Courthouse.

Sheriff Ezell Brown has proposed changes to the county's ordinance regulating discharge of firearms due to public safety concerns.

Brown is proposing prohibiting the discharge of firearms "in a manner which results in the projectile leaving the property on which it is fired" and within 350 yards of any residence, place of worship or public assembly or roadway. The current ordinance limits it to within 100 yards.

"The timing of it may be such sensitive timing right now because of everything else going on with the gun rights, so forth and so on," Brown told commissioners at their planning retreat on Feb. 16. "I think this is far beyond gun rights. I think this is about the protection of our community."

Brown told commissioners that the sheriff's office has received a large number of calls related to firearms being discharged in or near residentially zoned areas. Some of the callers have reported shrapnel crossing property lines and, in some cases, hitting their homes and endangering their families, he said. In 2011, there were 616 calls and in 2012, there were 714 calls related to firearms discharging. There have been 80 calls through Feb. 7 of this year.

Under Brown's proposal, discharge of firearms would be prohibited in most zoning districts: R1, R2 and R3 -- single family residential; MSR -- mixed use single family residential; DR -- single and two family residential; RMF -- multi-family residential; MHP -- manufactured home park; MHS -- manufactured home subdivision; OI -- office institutional; CN -- neighborhood commercial; CH -- highway commercial; CG -- general commercial; M1 -- light industrial and M2 -- heavy industrial.

It would be allowed in agricultural, agricultural residential and rural estate districts, but only if there is adequate protection in the form of a backstop and proper field of fire arranged to prevent danger to neighbors and nearby properties.

Firearm discharge in the appropriate areas would be limited to between one half-hour before sunrise and one-half hour after sunset.

Prohibitions against firing at a person, at or from a dwelling, house, railroad, train, boat, aircraft, motor vehicle or building used for assembling people, would remain.

Exemptions in place would remain for law enforcement; anyone lawfully destroying dangerous animals for wildlife nuisance abatement; discharge of blank cartridges for theatrical or signal purposes, military exercises or funerals or memorial events; any resident lawfully defending person or property; and lawful use at a private or commercial sport shooting range. An exemption for hunting regulated and conducted in accordance with state law has also been added.

Some commissioners said they have received calls from residents complaining about bullets narrowly missing or hitting their homes.

Brown said his deputies' hands are tied because the current ordinance has so few limitations.

Commissioner John Douglas said the timing of the amendments is wrong given the national controversy over gun rights, and is encouraging constituents to speak out.

"With the assaults on the 2nd amendment, this should raise a huge red flag in Newton County and you should let your commissioners know you oppose these gun control regulations," Douglas posted on his Facebook page.

But Brown said the issue isn't about gun control; it's about public safety.

"I'm in favor of the Second Amendment," Brown previously said. "However, I think we would negate to do our fundamental duties if we wait until this time next year or four years from now and we lose lives as a result of us thinking politically."

Comments

Neuhierl 1 year, 5 months ago

Does this mean that there isn't going to be a regularly scheduled BOC meeting on March 5th? Why did they call a special meeting this week instead of covering the Lawn Contract during a regulary called meeting? If there's no meeting, the 2/5/13 minutes will still not be approved, they can't distribute any checks or can they, and the topic of fixing our roads is still not going to be addressed. This last item was something Chairman Ellis said was a priority for him. Then there is the matter of the scrap metal contract and the pending ruling by the attorney if a vendor can bid "2% better than other bidders." Last meeting there were items not on the agenda added in the meeting. The meeting before that the BOC went into executive session and stated that afterward they would come back out and vote on a couple more issues, items not on the agenda. So far, this New BOC Team is getting a Failing Grade. Are their laws/rules that the BOC is breaking? Wonder if Attorney Craig knows the answer to this question.

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deathtotaxes 1 year, 5 months ago

Good grief don't get Craig involed!

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Newtownqq 1 year, 5 months ago

Yes thats true no meeting on the MAR 5.I spoke to Mr. Ellis who told me that a vote on the discharge requirements would take place in April. The BOC has been in viloation of several things, but thats no matter because some members feel they are above the law. One of the main problems is Attorney Craig his bills are out of this world! Let it be known that the District 5 BOC member works at the metal contractor and his family member is listed as owner on tax documents.

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HonestAbe 1 year, 5 months ago

They canceled the meeting so they can all go to the SPLOST forum and help Stone fight for the SPLOST. This is the first time in county history that they have had people to come out publically and man up against SPLOST.

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mansfield 1 year, 5 months ago

What's with this bord of commissioners? They have been all over the bord on contracts, they have meeting minutes that they havent approved, they had a meeeting out of order last week for a very short period of time and now they cancell this meeting for Tuesday because it would be too short. Who is in charge at the cort house? Sounds like to me nobody. The gun thing is the most important issue we have at the moment and Ellis is putting it off instead of getting it done. Does anyone know who is running this county?

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Bemused 1 year, 5 months ago

Of course we know who is running this county - Mort Ewing. Anyone who thinks otherwise is only fooling themselves.

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Eyeball 1 year, 5 months ago

I totally agree with you. Mort Ewing and his other right wing buddies is the reason John Middleton has an increase in power. It was Mort Ewing who wanted our form of government to change. After it was done, he left office. Also the county attorney should be included in this group. We the citizens need to voice our opinion and fire Tommy Craig. When he leaves, we need to get rid of John Middleton as well.

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TheUpside 1 year, 5 months ago

I would like to see the BOC cut funding to the Chamber. There are what like 8 people over there. The work climate is negative. The big dog alientates people from Covington to Atlanta. If you knew how legislators laugh about his growth model you would understand. It is time for new leadership at the Chamber of Commerce and we do not need to replace the one who just resigned (that alone is an interesting story). The hallucinations about the Baxter halo are old and worn out and Morgan Co. officials will tell you they are not moving the Baxter execs to Newton County schools. Bless you all let's save dollars and cut spending.

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