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Posted: July 18, 2013 8:40 p.m.

City Council has busy meeting

Several issues came up at Monday’s Covington City Council meeting, including new businesses, new programs and street closing and abandonments.

Bed and breakfast gets grant
Nicole Greer, who owns The Twelve Oaks Bed and Breakfast off Monticello Street in Covington, was offered a tourism development grant worth up $15,000 from the state to renovate two rooms on the third floor of her historic home-turned-business.

Greer will have to provide matching funds for the project, but came before the Covington council, which has to act as a conduit for the money on behalf of the business. The council approved the grant, pending legal approval.

In order to save the city from liability, Greer said she would pay for all the repairs and ask the city to reimburse her as opposed to her getting the money up front.

The Twelve Oaks was recently named one of the top 10 luxury inns in the world by bedandbreakfast.com, and Greer said an expanded business would bring extra hotel/motel sales tax to the city, as well as providing a boost for other downtown merchants and increasing sales tax revenue.

New downtown businesses
In the past quarter, two new businesses opened in Downtown Covington, including physical fitness center Square Fit, 1149A Washington St., and furniture store Just Dream, 1192 Clark St.

Main Street Covington Chair Serra Phillips said Just Dream does refurbishing and interior design and said the fitness classes at Square Fit were a tough workout.

Wine-tasting shop would need new law
The Cork Boutique, a specialty wine store, is planning to open on the square, but current city ordinances would not allow the business to have wine tastings, because food and drink establishments have to make a majority of their revenue from food.

The ordinance is to prevent bars from locating in the city, but Mayor Ronnie Johnston told the council he’d like to see ordinance language written that would allow the business to have wine tastings without having to sell food.
Covington has laws that ban drinking out of an open container outside in public, so any new ordinance would restrict drinking to a business’ premises.

Johnston said the owner of The Cork is a longtime resident who wants to invest in the area, and Johnston believes the business would be a perfect fit for the square.

City manager returns to work
Covington City Manager Leigh Anne Knight returned to work this week and got right back into the swing of things, attending Monday’s council meeting.

She expressed her gratitude for the many prayers and calls wishing her a swift recovery following her recent heart attack during a vacation in Florida.

Knight also thanked Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon for filling in and said it takes a team effort to run the city.

New police officers sworn in
Four new Covington police officers were sworn in Monday, bringing the department up to full staff after some recent retirements and departures.

Veteran officers Xavier Banks, Leigh Taylor, Alex Laudermilk and Chris Smith were sworn in. Smith is returning to Covington for a second tour of duty.

Police Chief Stacey Cotton said he tried to find experienced officers who could hit the ground running.

Thanks for the fireworks
Mayor Johnston personally thanked Porterdale resident Robert Foxworth, who personally raised $8,800 for Covington’s Fourth of July fireworks show. Foxworth raised a similar amount of money last year and said he planned to do more next year.

Johnston said the event was unbelievable and he heard the word about Covington’s celebration had spread as far as Atlanta.

Natural gas rebates
The city of Covington extended its natural gas rebate plan for another year as it seeks to encourage people to add natural gas to their homes.

A representative from the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia said the goal was to get people to switch from propane to natural gas and said the city should target the areas along Cook Road, Ga. Highway 36 and Elks Club Road. Some of those areas are outside the city, but the city sells electricity and gas well outside the city limits.

The city’s incentive programs involve potentially waiving tap fees to extend gas service to homes and as much of $5,000 for on-bill financing for residents, where costs for improvements are paid off over time through utility bill payments.

For more information, call the city of Covington at 770-385-2000.

In other gas department news, Knight thanked city gas workers who traveled to Greensboro to make repairs for that city after some recent damage.

Street closures and abandonments
The council unanimously voted to abandon Odum Circle to avoid having to pave the road when it’s not used.
Odum Circle leads to a planned development that never had any houses built. By abandoning the road, the city returns control to the adjacent land owner, which in this case is Kentucky-based MSDG Covington Residential, according to the Newton County Tax Assessor’s website.

The road is no longer a public road.

The city also approved temporarily shutting down Hayes Street, while construction takes place on the Mystic Grill Restaurant. Hayes Street runs between the planned restaurant and the Historic Courthouse.

Councilman Chris Smith asked if the street could remain open on the weekends, and Knight said she would check on that. The sidewalk next to the Historic Courthouse would remain open to pedestrian traffic.

New fuel tank at airport
The council also approved paying Florida-based Memco $206,000 for a new fuel farm and installation of the fuel farm at the Covington Municipal Airport.

Airport Engineer Vincent Passariello said the total project, including redesigning the pad on which the fuel farm sits, would cost less than $260,000.

The old fuel farm, which had experienced rust and other damage, will be sold on govdeals.com.

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