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Council consensus to up Main Street funding
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The Main Street Covington program is going to be expanding, and the consensus of the Covington City Council is that Director Josephine Kelly deserves a 5 percent raise.

For the second straight budget work session, the council discussed whether the Main Street program should be expanded and whether Kelly deserved more money.

Main Street Chair Billie Jean Whatley proposed the expansion in an April 19 letter to City Manager Steve Horton.

"The office has had to assume an increasing scope of work beyond what is conventionally considered downtown development and falls more within classification of community services," Whatley said

She suggested the formation of the Office of Community Services and Downtown Development and said the department has been working closely with the Covington Redevelopment Authority, the city’s housing initiatives and the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce. In addition to the square, Whatley suggested that the Pace and Elm streets corridors be added to Main Street’s jurisdiction.

Whatley suggested that Kelly should be promoted to director of this new office and given a $13,800 raise. In addition, a part-time staff member was recommended at a salary of $15,000 per year.

At an April 26 work session, the council took an informal consensus to not approve the raise; however, council members Keith Dalton, Janet Goodman and Mike Whatley were all absent. It was unclear at the time whether the board was in favor of the part-time position.

However, the subject was revisited at the city’s final budget meeting on May 10, and the council decided they were still opposed to the $13,800 raise, but they were in favor of standard promotion for Kelly, at a 5 percent raise. Kelly makes nearly $61,000 so 5 percent would be approximately $3,050. Half of the increase, $1,500, would be paid by the county if they also approve the increase.

The informal consensus vote had council member Ocie Franklin, Goodman and Hawnethia Williams in favor of the raise and the part-time position, and Dalton and Councilman Chris Smith were opposed. Councilman Mike Whatley eventually recused himself because his wife is Main Street’s chair.

Personnel Director Ronnie Cowan said he talked to Billie Jean Whatley and agreed that the job has expanded and that Kelly does attend more meetings, coordinates more events and oversees nearly double the number of businesses she did 10 years ago when she first was hired.

He said he recommended the promotion, because that salary increase would put her on a comparable level to a similar employee in Stone Mountain; no other comparables for this hybrid position could be found.

The council discussed whether Main Street should handle more economic development duties, in light of the fact that the city agreed to pay the chamber an additional $30,000 to hire a new economic development leader.

Horton said he considered there to be two levels of economic development, industrial and large retail development which is handled by the chamber and small business development. Mayor Kim Carter said she saw the chamber as competing more on a global level.

Smith asked if potential retail companies, like Kohls or Target, would get confused dealing with two people, but Horton said he didn’t think those size companies would locate downtown.

Last year the city considered hiring a community/economic development director at a salary of $72,000, and that money had been budgeted again this year. However, that money has now been removed. The money will go back into the general fund, but Dalton said he would like to see some extra money go toward curb and gutter.

Smith and Dalton asked to get a copy of Main Street’s bylaws and other documents to reexamine the organization’s operation. Goodman said she didn’t think it was necessary to look at the structure.

Kelly will also receive a standard 2.5 percent pay bump during her next six month evaluation, so her total salary will be $65,186.

Main Street’s total budget will be $101,443, up from $82,910; half is paid by the city and half by the county. Main Street also received hotel/motel tax money in addition to the above budget.