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Citizens ask council for library help
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Citizens concerned about the Newton County Library appeared before Covington City Council on Monday night to discuss ways to help fund the troubled library.

Newton County Magistrate Judge Kim Degonia spoke on behalf of the group. Degonia explained the current conditions of the library and why it was important to the community.

"The Covington children's library is not in good shape. The computers are over a decade old. They are in need of repair or replacement. The carpet in places is torn and uneven. And most upsetting of all, the library no longer has the funds to have a children's librarian," Degonia said.

She shared pictures with council, which showed the damages and current condition of the library. Degonia told council that books were not on the shelves and she and about 30 volunteers took time out of their Saturday to organize the books. Degonia said work still needed to be done at the library and stressed the importance of the facility to Newton County.

"My children and I believe the children of Newton County need this library," Degonia said. "We all need the children's library. Early literacy programs help to ensure that we have a literate workforce, which we need if we want to attract and keep businesses here in Covington," she said.

Degonia told the council she had a group of concerned citizens ready to raise money and asked the council to form a subcommittee to help figure out ways to address the problems at the library.

"I'm not here to ask for a handout for the library," Degonia said. "We just want to explore the idea of a partnership between concerned citizens, the city, and the county for the purpose of raising money for the library with matching funds," she said.

Degonia said the committee would also include members from the Newton County board of commissioners and concerned citizens. She said she wants to raise at least $10,000 in the next year for the library, and asked the council to match those funds if they were raised.

Councilman Chris Smith said the city already donates money to the library and said he had concerns about giving more money to the library.

"We do give $30,000 at this point to the library that we really don't have to give." Smith said.

"I have a hard time giving city taxpayer money to this because we've already agreed to give $30,000."

Councilwoman Janet Goodman also had concerns about giving more money to the library.

"I know the citizens already give money to the library through their taxes and a lot of times our citizens complain because they feel we are double dipping," Goodman said. "I don't know if the city should come to the rescue when the majority of the people are in the county."

Mayor Ronnie Johnston also commented on the issue.

"This is a tough one because I totally understand the children's aspect of it and I think it's actually more than just that, Johnston said. "The aspect of it being a resource center for many of our citizens to go and use computers to look for jobs and those kinds of things - I do think there are many other resources they can use," he said. "But also I do understand and respect what Mr. Smith is saying. There is a financial responsibility that we have so it's a real tough issue. "

The council agreed to create a subcommittee, but said they would not give any additional money to the library at this time.

In other business, Johnston read an oath of office to new Covington police officer Matt Cooper.

The council agreed to purchase a new truck for the gas department for $22,340 and also agreed to seek bids to purchase a new vehicle for the sanitation department and the communications department. The council also agreed to seek bids to purchase self contained breathing apparatus equipment parts and services for the fire department.

The council approved for streets to be closed off on Sept. 30 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for a Breast Cancer Awareness Benefit. Some of those streets include Washington, Church, Monticello and Main streets.