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Posted: April 8, 2014 9:10 p.m.

Gazebo idea to go to committee

Covington city council wants to look further into gazebo


The Covington City Council is not yet ready to move forward on adding a gazebo to the city’s square park.
The council voted to form a committee on looking into further options for the originally proposed 24-foot gazebo to be placed on the southeast quadrant of the square in its work session Monday, after an hour-long work session solely discussing the park on the square.

After mayor Ronnie Johnston presented the plan that first came in front of the council in February, and said how he feels a beautified square will help drive business and economic development, councilman Chris Smith made a motion to review the gazebo in committee.

Johnston said the plan for the square is “much bigger than a gazebo” but the gazebo is a big and grand gesture. Smith said he spoke with his constituents this week, who had questions about the gazebo’s use. Among those who expressed their concern to Smith was Mac McKibben of the band Drive Time, which often performs at Covington events such as Fourth of July and spring and summer concert series.

Smith told the council McKibben expressed concerns on the gazebo’s acoustics.

Covington City Planner Randy Vinson then reported to the council that the gazebo would have limited dates for concerts, compared to its use as a meeting, lunch and recreation facility for the citizens of Covington on a daily basis. The gazebo was originally slated to cost the city $55,000 but was reduced to roughly $36,000. Johnston said Main Street Covington is chipping in $14,000.

Smith continued to say he thought a committee of merchants and citizens would help get the right kind of structure on the square.

“I think if we’re going to do it, we should do it right,” Smith said.

Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams added she was not in favor of the gazebo in its current incarnation of more than $30,000 for the city.

“I’m not in favor at this particular time,” Williams said. “We need to find a way to cut back on some things so our citizens can see some benefits in terms of more bang for their buck.

“A committee may be ok. You reduce the price, that’s ok.”

After discussion went back and forth about the gazebo, its cost, the park and its need for city funds over other parts of Covington, the council passed a motion to look into a committee.

The gazebo was first proposed as part of an overall plan Feb. 4 for the square park, which would also include a bubbler fountain around the Confederate soldier statue in the middle of the square, turning the area around the war veterans monument near the Historic Courthouse into a paved area to make it more accessible for events like those held on Veterans Day and Memorial Day; the flag pole will also be moved over here, planting azaleas near the war veterans monument to give this more of a “contemplative garden” look, according to Vinson, beginning to replace the Maple trees around the outside of the square which are dying and are ill-suited for urban environments with more suitable willow oak trees; other red and white oaks will also be planted and adding more trash cans and benches and ensuring all of them have a uniform look.

Smith said some of his constituents who he called from “old Covington” want the council to stop adding to the square park and look at other areas of the city.

Williams also said the city’s money should be spent elsewhere.

“We still need to work on the entire city,” Williams said. “All we look at is uptown on the square. The poor will always be with us; that’s biblical. It’s no concern for the entire city. I cannot justify it when the people tell me what’s going on (financially with them).

Newton County, which owns the square park, approved the plans, including the gazebo, and Johnston said he thought the council was also in favor of the plan.

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