Congressman Paul Broun chats with firefighter Kellie Taylor at Fire Station No. 15 Thursday. Broun joined firefighters and public officials for a hot dog luncheon prior to a more formal meeting with officials at The Center. - Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
COVINGTON — Rep. Paul Broun, a Republican representing Georgia’s 10th District, visited Newton County on Thursday to have lunch with firefighters and learn about the 2050 Plan and how the county recruited Baxter International.
Officials, including Board of Commissioners Chairman Keith Ellis, Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston, Newborn Mayor Roger Sheridan, Commissioners John Douglas and Levie Maddox, Department of Development Services Director Scott Sirotkin, Chamber President Hunter Hall and former Commissioner Mort Ewing, attended a presentation of the 2050 Plan at The Center for Community Preservation and Planning.
Following the presentation, Broun pledged to assist the county in any way possible.
“I’m excited about this. Congratulations on what y’all have done here in Newton County,” he said.
“I represent the whole county. It doesn’t matter where … Porterdale is just as important to me as Social Circle and Covington. We’re here serve you, we’re here to serve the whole community,” he said. Broun said his goal is to have a representative attend as many City Council, Board of Commissioners and development authority meetings as possible.
Broun also said he won’t divulge information about economic development prospects to competing counties.
“I will continue to pitch Georgia, and then let’s sort out where best to locate, whether in Newton County or wherever in the state,” he said. “And I’m so proud of our governor because he’s focused like a laser on economic development.”
Broun said he started the ball rolling on the Caterpillar plant locating in Athens by pitching a move to Georgia to a company representative. Four months later, officials broke ground on the plant, which will employ 800 people. Broun said he also pitched Georgia to Baxter International representatives a year and a half ago, adding he’s not sure if that conversation affected the decision to locate in Newton.
Broun said discussions about a biomedical corridor along Ga. Highway 316 are “shortsighted” and represent “too narrow a vision.”
Such a corridor should exist along Interstate 20, with Augusta as the anchor, he said. “We’ve got so much in the way of assets here in the state of Georgia and I will do everything I can to make I-20 that corridor and having Baxter here is really going to kick it into gear.”
“You need to know as you do that and as you sit and talk to the governor you should no have no lack of confidence in kicking the ball down I-20 because we’ve got our foot on the gas pedal,” Hall responded.
Broun asked where the county stands on obtaining a 404 permit for Bear Creek Reservoir. Ewing said all the required mitigation has been completed and the county was informed in October that the permit would be in hand in 30 days. “You’ve been in Washington a good bit; you know it takes longer than 30 days sometimes,” Ewing told Broun. Ewing noted that the state has issued a permit to pump out of the Alcovy River to Bear Creek, which he said would not have happened if the permit was not going to be issued.
Broun offered his assistance if the county runs into problems obtaining the permit.
Broun is expected to announce his candidacy for retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ seat within the next few days.