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Posted: August 6, 2013 8:34 p.m.

Main Street future still undecided

The Main Street Covington Board of Directors is holding its annual general meeting Thursday evening, but members are still unsure of the future, because plans to move the downtown advocacy group under the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce have bogged down.

The committee tasked with figuring out the future of the program has been formed but hasn’t been able to meet because of scheduling conflicts, City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said Tuesday.

Committee members are Covington council members Chris Smith and Janet Goodman; Main Street board Chair Serra Phillips and board member Susan Kirk; county Commissioner Nancy Schulz and landscape architect Debbie Bell; and chamber President Hunter Hall and board Chair Paul Murphy. Covington city officials are also involved because Covington currently provides all funding for Main Street.

Knight said she hoped a meeting would be set in the "next week or so." She said no decision has been made on hiring a new permanent director. Previously, Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston raised the idea of hiring a consultant as the director to work on the program’s reorganization and prepare the way for a more permanent director.

Johnston originally raised the idea of moving Main Street under the chamber in late May, and the Covington City Council voted to approve the move in early June, contingent upon reaching a contract with the chamber.

Johnston has said he believes putting the Main Street program, tourism and economic development efforts all under the chamber’s umbrella will increase effectiveness through synergy, and he said he wants downtown events promoted more widely to spread the name of Covington around the state and nation. The Main Street program is responsible for marketing downtown Covington, including event planning, and helping to promote new businesses and aid existing businesses.

Annual meeting

Main Street Chair Phillips said most of the board is made up of new members, so much of Thursday’s 5 p.m. regular meeting and 6 p.m. annual general meeting will focus on getting those members up to speed, including an overview of the program and looking at what the program did last year and what is planned for this year.

Despite the uncertainty around the program’s future, Phillips said the Main Street board already has a set plan of work for the 2013-2014 year, which was approved by both the city and state. The board will continue to work on the plan, including organizing several events. Phillips said a fun part of the meeting will be discussing success stories of local downtown businesses from the past year. Both meetings will be held at The Center for Community Preservation and Planning, 2104 Washington St. SW, Covington.

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