Social Circle address would make mayor 'proud'

SOCIAL CIRCLE -- Mayor Hal Dally said at a town hall meeting Tuesday night that he'd be proud for Baxter to have a Social Circle address, even if Covington is on the building.

Baxter officials have referred to the planned facility in Stanton Springs as their "Covington plant," although the building will be constructed in Walton County. He noted that Google has a Douglasville address but refers to its Georgia site as the Atlanta facility.

One citizen suggested Dally take Baxter representatives on a tour of the town and show them all the businesses that have moved there, like General Mills and Dart, and "maybe they'll want to be associated with Social Circle."

Dally said he did just that about two months after last spring's announcement that Baxter would locate in Stanton Springs.

Economic development is all about "collaboration and confidentiality," he said.

Dally said that confidentiality may have been violated, as before the announcement about Baxter was made, "someone called Baxter and the rumor got out that person was from Social Circle." Dally said the phone call may have offended Baxter representatives and led to the decision to ask for a Covington ZIP code.

If that's true, "they need to let us know who it is so they can apologize to us for getting to this point," he said.

Dally said Stanton Springs was a collaborative effort among four counties -- Morgan, Jasper, Newton and Walton. "Let's start calling it the four-county industrial park, Stanton Springs," he said.

"It belongs to all of us. We need to market it and participate in the development of it," he said.

He said officials with the four counties came together 15 years ago to visit John's Creek.

"We all looked at each other and said, 'Can we do this? Is it possible? Can we make this part of the world like John's Creek' which has the highest household income in the state? That's the goal," he said.

Baxter will be the first tenant in Stanton Springs, and, although Social Circle ran water and sewer lines to the park, Baxter's needs exceeded the capacity the city could provide. The Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority will build a wastewater treatment plant on property it owns at Stanton Springs to serve Baxter, but until that's completed, wastewater will be pumped to the city of Covington's treatment facility nearly 9 miles away at the intersection of Ga. Highway 36 and Covington Bypass.

Baxter will eventually need up to 1 million gallons of water per day, which will be pumped from Lake Varner in Newton.

Covington, Social Circle and Madison will partner to bring natural gas to the park.

Dally said Social Circle is working to increase sewer and water treatment capacity for future tenants. He said the city will partner with Walton County to purchase capacity from the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir.

Newton and Walton counties each have a 37.5 percent stake in Stanton Springs -- that applies to expenses as well as revenues resulting from development -- while Morgan has 15 percent and Jasper 10 percent.

Some residents at the meeting Tuesday said they're worried about growth in the area once sewer is available.

Newton Commissioner John Douglas said there will be a prohibition on sewer line taps that limit growth to the Hub and Stanton Springs, as outlined in the 2050 Plan.