The Covington City Council reversed course Monday night and voted to allow extended parking in the inner loop of the downtown square after hearing from disgruntled attorneys and accountants with businesses on the square.
In December at the request of retail store owners on the Covington square, the council voted to include parking contiguous to the square in new parking time limits that include parking in the outer loop and parking for one city block outwards on all streets forming the boundaries of the eight city blocks that make up the square.
The council also voted to extend the time limits on square parking from two hours to three hours at the request of Councilmember Keith Dalton with no parking on the inner loop allowed for more than 12 hours.
"I feel like we're almost in a situation of trying to fix something that's not broken. What we have is working very well," said attorney Jimmy Alexander, who has had a law practice on the square for many years. "In practicality, you're going to create a chess game of people moving their cars every two hours."
Alexander said there really wasn't any demand for more square parking by customers of the retail businesses on the square. This past Christmas Eve, on what should have been a busy shopping day, when he stopped by his practice he said there were no more than 19 cars parked on the square.
He said his employees would have "literally no where to park" downtown if square parking were to be eliminated.
CPA Pete Carter and financial advisor Stuart Hamilton who both have businesses on the square objected to the parking ordinance along the same lines of Alexander.
In other city council news:
• The council briefly discussed a list of tourism projects that could be supported by the scheduled increase of the city's hotel/motel tax rate should the civic center project not come to fruition.
The council had previously decided to increase the hotel/motel tax rate from 5 percent to 8 percent with the added 3 percent going toward paying off bonds for the civic center. However with that project halted due to the turbulence of the bond markets, the council decided to prepare a list of other projects the hotel/motel taxes could go to.
A tourism committee has identified several projects that the tax monies could fund. They include the purchase of railroad right-of-way for a multi-use trail system, Chimney Park and the jail museum/history center. A portion of the taxes must also go to the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce for tourism promotion purposes.
Covington Mayor Kim Carter and the council decided to mull over the list of tourism projects and come up with suggestions for the prioritization of monies to the projects at the next council meeting.
The council must prepare a resolution regarding the increase in hotel/motel taxes for Sen. John Douglas and State Rep. Doug Holt to take before the General Assembly for passage before the hotel/motel tax rate can be raised.
• City Finance Director and City Clerk John Grotheer turned in his letter of resignation to the council after accepting a job as finance director for the new Georgia city of Dunwoody.
Grotheer's last day will be Jan. 20. He has been the city's finance director for 12-and-a-half-years. He was thanked for his years of service by the mayor and council.