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Posted: August 19, 2014 10:26 p.m.

Watch for Square-related detours

Big events are planned at the Covington Square every weekend in October, which will be good for business but, probably, bad for traffic.

Monday night the Covington City Council approved seven road closures for various weekends this fall, as the city increasingly becomes a popular destination for event planners. The council did reject an application from a circus to use Legion Field, however.

The first event is this weekend, but it’s the smallest event on the list. A short stretch of Ivy Street off Washington will be closed from 3-8 p.m. this Saturday for a Williams’ family gathering and birthday party. The council voted 4-1 to approve the request, with Hawnethia Williams abstaining (she applied for the closure) and Chris Smith voting against.

Smith questioned whether allowing a family to request a road closure would set a problematic precedent. Closing roads for nonprofit events is one thing; closing them at residents’ request is another.

“We need to come up with some clear guidelines,” he said. And with policies in place to govern overtime needed to monitor closed roads, there may need to be a fee system.

“Right now, it’s kind of wide open,” he said.

Mayor Ronnie Johnston agreed that guidelines are needed, and added that they need to apply city-wide. After extensive discussion, however, no action was taken on setting a policy and the request was approved.

On Sept. 13, the Fuzz Run will close streets throughout town, but only for a short while. Just be careful and watch for runners that day.

Next, the Community on Our Knees prayer event will close parts of the square from 6:30-8:15 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21. The inner loop on the square will be closed, said City Manager Leigh Anne Knight; all turns into the square will be right-turns only, with no circulation of traffic through the square. That plan passed the council unanimously.

On Saturday, Oct. 4, Ohannah’s Hair Studio will celebrate its anniversary with a party. Knight said the company requested to close Brown Street between Washington and Clark from 3-8 p.m. The council agreed unanimously after Knight assured them no businesses would be affected by the closure.

Other plans include:
• Sunday, Oct. 12: The Southern Cruisers Riding Club will host a fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospitals from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., requiring the closure of the entire square. The vote was 6-0.

• Saturday, Oct. 18: A “Witches Night Out and Moonlight Dash” is planned. Organizers of the women-focused gathering (the witches part is just for fun) originally wanted to close the square from 4-10 p.m. and surrounding roads from 6-8 p.m. for a 5-kilometer run, but city officials had too many questions to approve that right away. Councilman Keith Dalton motioned that the party be approved provided the time for the planned 5k be moved up so it doesn’t happen after dark and that organizers meet with city staff members and law enforcement officers to draw up a route for the race closer to the square — perhaps only inside the square. The vote was 5-1, with Williams against.

• Saturday, Oct. 25: The council unanimously approved plans for Change the World Day from 7 a.m. to noon at the First Methodist Church. The annual event also includes the 5k Steeplechase, which will require the closure of several roads for a short time.

But plans for the Lewis & Clark Circus to use Legion Field on Sept. 22-23 didn’t fare so well – with the council ultimately rejecting it 4-3, with Johnston casting the tie-breaking vote. Lewis & Clark is not a large circus; think acrobats and a “small petting zoo,” Knight told the council.

“This (request), I just don’t think we have enough information on,” Johnston said.

Ultimately, council members Janet Goodman, Keith Dalton and Williams voted to approve the circus’ request; Johnston sided with Smith, Michael Whatley and Ocie Franklin to deny it.

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1 comment
Susan1958: August 20, 2014 8:39 a.m.

Seriously??? The Covington city council approved a request made by a council member in regard to road closures near the square for a private family gathering/birthday party? I agree with council member Chris Smith in that there should be clear guidelines around road closures, which inconvenience many of the residents of our city. As a tax payer, I have concerns surrounding the costs of this request (who will pay for the fees to set up and enforce these closures?) and merely the fact that this request was made by a council member and then approved by the same council. Would this have been approved for the average Covington citizen? I'd be curious to find out, but I'm guessing if the request had not been made by Ms. Williams on behalf of her family gathering, it would not have been approved, which (in my opinion) would have been the right response to any such request for road closures to support a private, family gathering.

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