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Posted: September 5, 2013 8:30 p.m.

Gravel spill costs local company

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When a truck accidentally spilled gravel along a portion of U.S. Highway 278 in Covington Aug. 16, the city blocked traffic and sent crews to clean up the debris; then, it sent a $1,160 bill to the truck’s owner.

Bennie Howard with Newborn-based Howard Hauling Inc. told the Covington City Council at Tuesday’s meeting that he understood he had to pay for the cleanup but felt the bill was too high.

After reviewing the charges, Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon reduced the bill to $800 and gave Howard three months to pay it. Bouchillon said he felt the initial charge was fair, but he deleted charges for "a supervisor on site who didn’t do any actual shoveling and would have been on the job anyway. Likewise, the patrol cars would have been on the road and in use during that two-hour period."

Originally, the city charged Howard $560 for labor for 13 employees working two hours apiece, including 11 from the street and water departments and two police officers, and $600 for the city’s use of trucks and equipment for two hours.

"We had charged him $75 per hour for equipment (including) two loaders and two police units that equaled $600," Bouchillon said in an email to The News.

At the meeting, Howard asked the city to work with him.

"I think ($1,160 is) too much; I really do. Do you know it takes that dump truck two weeks to make $1,160?" Howard said to the council, noting about half a ton of rocks leaked out of the truck as it drove from about West Street to Pace Street. "I understand I have to pay a fine; that, I do understand. But not that much. No, not that much."

Mayor Ronnie Johnston told Howard the city would look at the invoice again to see if it was a fair amount.

Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams said 13 seemed like a high number of workers, but Bouchillon said that a lot of rock was spilled and noted the spill occurred Friday afternoon on a busy state highway; he said the state gave the city a cleanup response time of four hours, so the city decided to clean up the spill.

Initially, Covington Police Capt. Ken Malcom said the conditions were akin to driving on a gravel driveway. Both eastbound lanes on U.S. 278 were temporarily blocked to allow gravel to be picked up and any remaining pieces to be brushed off the roadway.

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