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City approves land donation
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The District 4 Community Center is one step closer to becoming a reality with Monday night's approval by the Covington City Council of a donation of .5 acres of city land to the project.

The property for the community center, located at the intersection of Laseter Street and Puckett Street, is now approximately 8.5 acres and includes space for a pickup football or baseball field, an open-play area, a tot lot, a basketball court, a pavilion, a picnic area and the community center itself. The land donated by the city once had an American Legion building on it and is expected to be used for the pavilion.

In addition to being used for community meetings and voting, the center is expected to be used for programming dedicated to children similar to that of the Washington Street Community Center.

The building is expected to contain a flexible meeting room with space for 75-100 people, which will take up half of the building, a small kitchen, two stall restrooms, a small office and some storage space.

The building of the community center is funded by a $500,000 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax allocation from the Newton County Board of Commissioners. However District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson, who has persistently advocated for the center over the past several years, is seeking additional funding for the project to expand the square footage of the center building from 2,475 square feet to 3,000. This will increase the cost of the building by an estimated $50,000 more than the original SPLOST allocation according to Cheryl Delk, special projects coordinator for Newton County.

After spending $127,000 on the purchase of the eight acres of land, $40,000 on the purchase of equipment for the kitchen as well as tables and chairs and $3,000 on abatement, the county has $330,000 left with which to build the community center. The City of Covington is donating in-kind services to the building in the form of $21,000 in waived fees for a water line, vault and fire hydrant to support the center.

"We do believe this is a very worthwhile project," said City Manager Steve Horton of the Covington's contribution to the center.

Other donations sought for the center which can be contributed through grants or in-kind services include land grading services for a flexible field to play either baseball or football in, ten computers valued at $1,000 each, tot-lot play equipment and a surrounding fence.

"We cant' afford anything other than the building right now," said Delk.

Delk estimated that it would be at least three months before construction on the community center can begin. Delk said there have been offers of in-kind services to contribute asphalt for a driveway and parking lot for the center.

Speaking before the city council Monday night, Henderson said he was disappointed in the lack of a corporate response from Home Depot and Wal-Mart towards the community center.

"It would be nice if they would come to the table and help us out with these projects," Henderson said.

On Sunday evening Wal-Mart donated $18,700 to local non-profits and area churches in honor of the opening of the company's new Supercenter on Ga. Highway 142.

In voting to approve the donation of .48 acres to the community center, Council member Janet Goodman recommended that the city's contribution to the project be included in a plaque for the center.