A proposal to spend a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Covington Cable on the relocation of the Rainbow Covenant Ministries homeless shelter to the city of Covington is on the table for community discussion and input.
Covington Mayor Sam Ramsey - who is in support of the proposal - is encouraging the general public to attend next Monday night's city council meeting to discuss the matter and let their feelings be known to city council members.
"I hope the general public will come to next Monday's council meeting because we need to know how they feel about it," Ramsey said. "That's how democracy works. I think the public needs to know the facts of it."
The city of Covington was recently given a check for over $27 million for the sale of Covington Cable to Charter Communications Inc., the sale of which became complete at the beginning of the month.
How to spend the $27 million will likely occupy much of the city council's discussions in the coming weeks. The matter will also likely be a key issue for candidates running for Covington city office this November.
Ramsey said it was his view that because Covington Cable served not only Covington but also residents in Oxford and Porterdale that the proceeds from the cable sale should partly be spent on something which would benefit the community at large.
In its six year history, Rainbow Covenant Ministries has housed over 5,000 people who come to the shelter from all over the county as well as the surrounding areas. The shelter is currently housing 38 residents.
"They're not just spending the money on the community shelter," said Rainbow Covenant Ministries Director Rev. Clara Lett of the proposal. "They'll be spending the money on the community. With the growth of this county we need this shelter."
Currently located in the city of Porterdale, on Rainbow Covenant Church property, the shelter's future is tenuous at present. For several years the shelter has been involved in a lawsuit with the city of Porterdale over whether or not the shelter is in compliance with city zoning codes.
A status conference on the lawsuit with Newton County Superior Court Judge Horace Johnson Jr. is scheduled for Friday.
According to Lett, a possible location for the shelter has been found in three buildings located on Turner Lake Circle. The Head Start program, which currently occupies the buildings, has outgrown the location said Lett and is looking to relocate.
Lett described the location as ideal, in that it has enough space for separate sleeping quarters for men, women and families and enough space for Faithworks - a local nonprofit which provides emergency financial relief to families struggling to pay their utility bills - and the Community Food Pantry to also relocate to the premises.
The site is also close enough for residents of the shelter to be able to walk to services and jobs located in downtown Covington said Lett.
The shelter's current location in Porterdale is problematic for residents of the shelter who don't have cars of their own and must rely on rides from the shelter in order to go to their various appointments.
"This is a great location for the shelter," Lett said. "With this it's perfect because you already have your kitchen set up. You already have the separation of the men and women's buildings and then you have another building (for Faithworks and the Community Food Pantry). All of it is just right there. The parking is perfect; there are enough parking spaces."
Lett said that the Head Start location was better suited for the shelter than another church property, also located on Turner Lake Circle, which Rainbow Ministries had previously been looking at.
"The other site we were looking at would run much more expensive," Lett said, adding that the only repairs necessary for the Head Start buildings would be a new sprinkler system.
Lett said Rainbow Covenant Ministries would sign a lease agreement with the building's owner for use of the property rather than buy it outright.
Lett said she already has the support of the Newton County Ministers Union behind her. Lett serves as the union's second vice president.
"Our main goal now is to move from Porterdale," Lett said. We never came here to stay. It was never intended to be here (in Porterdale) permanently."
The Covington City Council will meet at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17, at the Covington City Hall located on Emory Street.