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Covington City Hall renovation to start this week

COVINGTON, Ga. - Renovation of Covington City Hall and the Covington Planning & Zoning Department is officially underway after the Covington City Council approved the sole bid from Sunbelt Builders Monday evening. 

The renovation will convert the current council meeting room into office space and turn the current P&Z Department building into a meeting space and court services department. 

Covington City Manager Leigh Anne Knight presented the stamped plans to the council during last week's work session. She said Sunbelt's original bid on the project came in higher than expected, but because they were the only bidder on the project negotiations were allowed to get the project closer to the budget goal. 

Coming in at $458,576 for the entire renovation project, Knight said the project will cost the city about $100,000 more than what was originally budgeted because the original plan was for city staff to complete the renovation work. 

"It's an election year," she said. "We have to let the election board know by July where the election is going to be held. We can't be in the throughs of a renovation and there's no way we could get that amount of work done.

"Secondly, there was a lot of moving parts to this whole thing and so we just determined that we wanted to be above board and follow all the rules, so we just sent it out for bid so we could have stamped plans and have exactly the other things that we ask other people to do with the major amount of renovation that we were anticipating doing."

Knight said the new council meeting and courtroom would add more than 100 seats, doubling its current capacity. 

"I think people are going to be happy that we did this and not a $3 million brand new facility," Councilman Josh McKelvey said. 

Covington Mayor said the biggest motivation for the renovation was the need for improvement of court facilities. Knight agreed and said the municipal court area - which is currently located inside the Covington Police Department - has been undersized for multiple years. 

"The police are moving and I don't want us to be stuck holding that building just because of municipal court three or four times a month," he said. 

Knight said the renovation will start this week and should take three to four months to complete. Covington Public Relations Manager Trey Sanders said as a result of the renovation, anyone wishing to speak with P&Z staff will need to go to the main City Hall building, as offices have been moved. 

Councilman Anthony Henderson raised the question about the increased cost of the project. He was the only dissenting vote on the renovation.