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Posted: July 22, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Council OKs squirrel hunting

Also approved: Porterdale dispatch contract, Alcovy Road construction

Some Covington City Council members were surprised to discover that the city has allowed city residents to shoot squirrels on their property for years, if a resident obtained a squirrel permit from the Covington Police Department.

City Manager Steve Horton brought up the issue of squirrel permits because he said the city has recently been receiving more complaints about people shooting at squirrels, and, after examining the issue further, city officials realized the squirrel permit was in conflict with the ordinance.

Squirrel permits allow residents to shoot squirrels on their property only if they use either .410 gauge shotgun shells or .22 caliber rifles with rat shot or shot shell; but the city ordinance doesn’t allow firearms to be fired in the city’s limits, with the exception of personal defense, use by public safety officials and use at indoor firing ranges.

Councilman Mike Whatley said he thought some of the complaints stemmed from an incident at a golf course, where a person was shooting squirrels with real bullets. Horton said it was also likely that many residents didn’t know about the permits and were calling in complaints because they heard people shooting guns in the city.

Police Chief Stacey Cotton said the CPD had suspended issuing licenses until the city council decided how it wanted to proceed.

Monday, the council voted 4-2 in favor of the amending the city ordinance to allow the permit, with councilwomen Janet Goodman and Ocie Franklin opposing. However, the council asked City Attorney Ed Crudup to write up an ordinance to ensure no future legal problems.

Councilman Keith Dalton said he has used a squirrel permit and supported amending the ordinance, but he asked that chipmunks and snakes be

included in the permit, because of the problems the animals cause on his property, including eating the plants in his garden. Crudup said that some species of snakes are environmentally protected and it would be safer to leave them out of the ordinance change.

The council finally decided on using the term rodents in the ordinance. The permits had previously been free, with applicants simply having to pass a background check, but Whatley suggested that city charge $15 per permit to pay for the processing of a background check. The permits will still last for one year.

In other news, the council unanimously approved the 911 Dispatch Services Contract with the city of Porterdale, bringing that issue to a close, as the Board of Commissioners was expected to approve the contract Tuesday night.

Mayor Kim Carter said she was glad the issue was finally resolved and council members expressed their agreement with a couple of "Amen"s.

• The city approved an $83,401.05 bid from Pittman Construction Company to resurface Alcovy Road from U.S. Highway 278 to Agnew Way. The Georgia Department of Transportation has been doing road work North of Agnew Way up to I-20.

• City Manager Steve Horton said several residents have been delinquent on their stormwater bills, to the tune of more than $600,000, and the city has placed liens on many of those properties, which is a remedy allowed for in the city’s ordinance. When liens are placed on a property, they must be paid off when the property is sold or changes hands.

Horton said the city has been trying to collect delinquent bills of for the past few years, but employees have been trying to educate residents as to why they must pay the bills and how the bills should be paid. He said stormwater bills have only been charged for the last several years, so people are not as used to them as they are with electric and gas utility bills, which have been charged for more than 50 years.

"It would have been better to place liens every year, but I believe our folks we’re trying to give people a chance to understand and take care of bills on their own," Horton said. "A lot of people don’t understand why they had to pay …. But eventually we realized some people would never pay."

Liens were used because the city can’t simply cut off stormwater service like it can electricity and gas. Horton said the city has stormwater bills to pay for maintenance of the stormwater system, inspections of runoff sources and costs to clean water that reaches the city’s water plant, which are required by state law.

For any properties that could not have a lien placed on them, like properties that have recently changed owners, those accounts have been turned over to a collection agency.

• After Monday’s city council meeting, Nelson Heights resident Henry Mills complained about the excessive noise and excessively large parties taking place in Nelson Heights at all hours of the night. He said a party on Saturday night drew hundreds of people and caused his driveway to be blocked by the visiting cars.

Mills said that the police weren’t responding to the area, but Police Chief Stacey Cotton explained that whenever the cops drive through the neighborhood, things quiet down and then when the patrol car leaves, the noise and other activity picks up again. Cotton said they’ve had complaints of drag racing, people popping "wheelies" and people riding ATVs through the forests.

Councilwoman Janet Goodman said she knows that kind of activity has been going on for years. Councilwoman Ocie Franklin said a strong community watch had been developed in Nelson Heights in previous years, and she promised to work with Mills

• General Mills is going to celebrate its 20-year anniversary in Covington with an open-to-the-public event on the square on at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4. Country music singer John Berry will perform and concessions will be sold, with all concession proceeds going to benefit the construction of a Covington Miracle Field.

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