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Posted: January 12, 2011 5:14 p.m.

City, county offices to open today

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Conditions are steadily improving and the governments of both Covington and Newton County are planning to open for business Thursday.

Covington City Manager Steve Horton said the city will resume normal 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours, while Chairman Kathy Morgan said the county is likely to have a delayed opening around 10 a.m.

DeKalb Technical and Georgia Perimeter colleges will be closed until Tuesday. DeKalb Technical never has classes on Friday and schools are closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, according to a spokesperson.

The Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting has also been postponed, according to a DeKalb Tech spokesperson. The meeting had been scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Thursday at DeKalb's campus, but will be moved to another date.

Mail was delivered to some homes Wednesday, but lingering ice kept some government offices closed.

Newton County offices remain closed today as public works crews attempted to break up the two inches of ice that accumulated on county parking lots.

Morgan said the county has used up nearly all its supply of calcium chloride, salt and sand and will prepare to restock in case another storm hits before the end of winter. When the county reopens, she said she will also have a meeting with employees from public works, the sheriff's office and other emergency departments to examine the county's efforts and prepare for future storms. The county has not had a storm that caused it to close for three days since the early 1990s, she said.

Area post offices received their mail around 10 a.m. this morning and carriers hit the road this afternoon.

Officials at the Covington, Oxford, Porterdale and Social Circle post offices all said they received mail and were planning to deliver to as many places as possible. An official with the Covington office said she did not yet know which, if any, roads would be impassable. Drivers are to report impassable roads and then officials will evaluate the situation.

The Mansfield and Newborn offices have not yet received mail, but their mail comes through the Covington office. The Covington office also handles street address delivery for Porterdale and Jersey. The Porterdale post office only receives and delivers mail for P.O. Box addresses.

According to the college website, campuses are closed Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Web registration will end at 7 p.m. Jan. 19, and extended registration will be  held Jan. 18-19.

Sidewalks in downtown Covington are icy, but by late morning crews were out cleaning walkways and should be finished by early afternoon, according to Main Street Covington.

Original Story, 12:30 a.m.: For the second straight day, the mail was not delivered in Covington on Tuesday, because carriers were unable to make the trek from the processing center in Duluth in Gwinnett County to Covington's office.

Covington Post Office Manager Jerry Romero said he expected the mail to be delivered today, but would not know for sure until 8 a.m..

While most grocery stores and major retailers opened for at least most of the day Tuesday, government offices of Newton County and Covington remained closed to the public.
Covington City Manager Steve Horton said City Hall would be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday. He said the roads were improving as of 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Residents may also pay bills and conduct other business by phone or e-mail, beginning at 8 a.m. and continuing through 3 p.m.

City Public Works Director Billy Bouchillon said the city was not able to pick up trash Tuesday and would likely not be able to go out Wednesday. Therefore, everybody's schedule would be pushed back. He said residents should put their trash cans on the curb when they are able to, and the city would pick them up when it was able to.

Newton County Chairman Kathy Morgan had made no determination Tuesday afternoon on when county offices will reopen.

Both the county and city continued to urge people to stay at home because the icy roads are dangerous. Public works crews have been working in rotating shifts since 7 p.m. Sunday to clear streets and respond to emergencies.

Neither Covington nor the county has salt spreaders, but both have dump trucks they use to spread sand, gravel and a calcium chloride mixture. Morgan said the county still had sand, gravel and calcium chloride, but the supply was beginning to run short.

"We don't stockpile for 5 days, only 48 hours. Our guys are hitting the critical spots, our response is just like the (Department of Transportation's), we hit the bridges and major roadways. Our critical response is following fire trucks and EMTs, that's the only time we go off major roadways into residential streets," Morgan said. "We can't clear 1,000 miles of roads."

Morgan said she's also talking with other government leaders to create a contingency plan in case a major power outage occurs. She was trying to locate public buildings with bathroom and kitchen facilities that could house hundreds of residents.

Retailers
The county's grocery stores and major retailers, including Ingles, Kmart, Kroger, Publix and Walmart, opened Tuesday, with many reassuming regular hours. Unless the weather gets significantly worse, the stores are expected to be open again Wednesday.

Power Outages
Snapping Shoals EMC had a power outage Tuesday that affected 1,400 customers, including the Conyers Walmart. The outage occurred at 12:40 p.m. and was repaired by 1:24 p.m. It was caused by a material failure and was unrelated to the weather, Snapping Shoals spokeswoman Leigh-Anne Burgess said in an e-mail.
No other major outages were reported. Horton said that the city had a few small problems, most of which were related to drivers running into electric poles.

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