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Posted: December 13, 2009 12:30 a.m.

IBM offers Covington chance to be Smarter City

City gets update on Turner Lake roundabout

Covington and Newton County may join 19 other cities around the world by signing up for IBM’s Smarter Cities program.

The county and city have been afforded the opportunity to participate in an IBM Smarter City assessment for free. IBM’s program seeks to use new technologies to improve cities’ infrastructure in areas like communications, energy, transportation and water.

The Smarter Cities program has been initiated in cities worldwide in countries like Australia, Brazil, Singapore and Sweden.

At the Dec. 7 city council meeting, City Manager Steve Horton said the city had been offered the free technical assistance which is valued at $150,000.

Horton said a larger city in Georgia had been in the running, but when that fell through, IBM approached Newton County. He said IBM’s goal would certainly be to implement the ideas raised in the assessment, but the city and county would be under no obligation to institute those changes nor would they need to contract with IBM to do the work.

IBM said the program is timely because last year, for the first time in history, more people lived in cities than in the country.

IBM’s Web site had this description:

"As populations grow at a fast clip, they are placing greater demands on the city infrastructures that deliver vital services such as transportation, healthcare, education and public safety. Adding to the strain are ever-changing public demands for better education, greener programs, accessible government, affordable housing and more options for senior citizens."

The county will be discussing the assessment at Tuesday’s meeting.

In other city news, Transportation Manager Billy Skinner gave an update on the Turner Lake Road roundabout project. He said the project is in the final approval stages with the Georgia Department of Transportation, and is expected to be let for bid on Feb. 19. Construction would likely follow within 60 days after the project is let.

Old Clark Street will be used as a detour during the construction, but Skinner said the city’s plan is to block off the street once the roundabout is finished. Many people use the street to avoid the Clark Street intersection, but Skinner said the city will put in a cul-de-sec to prevent future use.

The roundabout and pedestrian underground tunnel will both be lighted, Skinner said. The project is being paid for entirely with federal stimulus money and is being handled by the DOT.

The city also found out last week that it is being reimbursed by the federal and state government for repairs related to late September’s flooding. Mayor Kim Carter said the city sustained $13,246 of damage to electrical transmission polls and wires. The Federal and Georgia emergency management agencies will cover 85 percent of the cost and Covington will pay $1,986.

In order to deal with any other possible emergencies, Covington also contracted to purchase backup internet service.

"Currently we do not have a backup, so if our internet goes down we’re dead in the water … when you do things like online bill pay and some other strategic public safety activities, general communication, you need the ability to have a backup," she said.

The city signed up for a 36-month contract with Ascend Technologies for $975 per month to provide a back up connection of 10 megabytes per second. The city currently has a 10 megabyte per second connection with Charter Communications.

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