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Shelter repairs to cost more than expected
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The Covington City Council approved a $1,080,000 grant for the Covington Housing Authority for the purchase of property to be used for a homeless shelter at their meeting Monday night.

The grant includes the cost of purchasing three buildings located at 7153 Turner Lake Circle ($980,000) as well as the cost of installing a sprinkler system ($70,000) and the cost of installing showers and repairs to several broken windows ($30,000).

The grant did not include funds to repair the roof of the third building, which was reportedly leaking water onto the building's floor during a recent downpour, according to Covington Facilities Manager Wayne Digby. It also did not include funds for the building of a walkway to connect the three buildings.

The Covington Housing Authority will be leasing space to the Rainbow Covenant Ministries homeless shelter. The city of Covington will not be providing any operating costs to the shelter.

 When the council voted to purchase the buildings on Turner Lake Circle at their Sept. 17 meeting, they were told by Covington Mayor Sam Ramsey that repairs to the buildings would likely be minimal and the installation of a sprinkler system would likely cost in the ballpark of $30,000.

However, on Monday night the council was presented with a grant offer to approve of $1,214,950. The grant offer included funds for roof repairs, a walkway, showers and a sprinkler system.

Council members were dismayed when they were asked to approve a grant $235,000 more than they were expecting.

"We jumped in it really to fast," said Council member Roger Tingler of the council's earlier decision to purchase the property on Sept. 17.

Ramsey tried to allay the concerns of council members by reminding them that the city would be receiving $41,000 in rent over the next five months from the buildings' current tenants - McIntosh Trail Early Childhood Development Council Inc.

The mayor added that he expected the city would receive a $75,000 Georgia Department of Community Affairs grant for the shelter. In addition a $100,000 federal grant for the shelter was included in The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2008. The bill is awaiting President George Bush's signature of approval.

Ramsey said he expected the city would know by the end of the year whether they would be receiving the DCA grant. Ramsey recommended the council approve funds for the sprinkler system and the showers because they had previously known about those improvements at the Sept. 17 meeting.

A motion made by Council member Janet Goodman to approve a grant offer of $1,080,000 to the Covington Housing Authority was seconded by Council member Ocie Franklin. Council member Hawnethia Williams also voted in favor of the proposal.

Council members Roger Tingler and Mike Whatley voted against the proposal. Council member John Howard was not in attendance at Monday night's meeting.

The $1.08 million grant the city approved for the Covington Housing Authority was paid for from the proceeds of the sale of Covington Cable to Charter Communications Inc.

In addition to Rainbow Covenant Ministries, FaithWorks is also in talks with the Covington Housing Authority to relocate to Turner Lake Circle.

FaithWorks Chairman Bob Furnad told the council Monday night the nonprofit was planning on spending $30,000 on interior improvements to their 1,700 square feet of building space on the Turner Lake property.

Less certain is whether The Community Food Pantry will relocate to Turner Lake Circle as well. The pantry is currently located on Brown Street in downtown Covington.