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City council divided over budget items
Revised 911 contract approved
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The Covington City Council approved the 2009-2010 budget, but Councilman Keith Dalton voted against approving the budget because he disagreed with pay raises to the mayor and council and the addition of two new city employees.

Dalton said the mayor and council pay raises would add $24,000 to the budget, the addition of a Community Economic Director would add $78,000 to the budget plus benefits and the addition of a Planning and Zoning Fiscal Coordinator would add $50,000 plus benefits.

Mayor Kim Carter clarified that even though these line items are in the budget, they will still be voted on and approved at a separate time by the council. Councilman John Howard said the council had discussed the items previously and had agreed to vote on them at a separate time.

The budget revenue is set at $120,544,686.06 and the expenditures are set at $120,015,651.65, creating a surplus of $529,034.41.

Horton said that even though the city’s tax digest actually increased in 2009 the budget was set $12 million lower in revenue and expenditures than 2008 to be conservative. The millage rate remained at 8.208.

In other news from Monday night's Covington City Council meeting:

• The council chose to approve the Covington/Newton County revised 911 contract with Porterdale, instead of Porterdale’s three-month interim contract.

The revised contract once again reduced Poterdale’s fees to $24,728, but continued to charge the city for calls made by both city employees, namely police officers, and city residents.

The interim contract submitted by Porterdale was for three months — to put a contract in place until Porterdale and Covington/Newton County could reach an agreement on whether Porterdale should be charged for all calls made within the city, or only those calls made by Porterdale employees.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners will also vote on the contracts soon.

• Covington is one half of the way toward securing enough electricity to tide the city over until the new units at the nuclear Plant Votgle become operational in 2017. Covington reached an agreement to buy 3 megawatts of power from the City of Marietta in calendar year 2010, and 5 MW of power from Jan. 1, 2011 until Dec. 31, 2015. The city will also have an option to extend the contract for two more years.

At Monday’s meeting Horton said the deal won’t necessarily bring down Covington’s high summer power rates, but it will stabilize them, because the city will have a set contract, instead of having to purchase power off the volatile open market.

The city is still negotiating to buy an additional 5 MW of power from The Energy Authority to satisfy all of the city’s power needs.

Utilities Director Bill Meecham said he was happy to finally reach an agreement with Marietta and he said he hoped an agreement with TEA would be negotiated soon.

• Ga. Highway 36, which runs through the square, will be milled down and repaved by the state sometime after July 4, Transportation Manager Bill Skinner said. The exact schedule is still being set.

• Mayor Kim Carter said the city’s Web site will go live later this week, and will provide more information and resources for residents.