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Council talks noise, roads and high temps
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The Covington City Council discussed numerous issues Monday, including continued noise complaints about Oconee Metal Recovery's car shredder, a place for homeless residents to cool down, changing the name of Ga. Highway 36 and using land around the airport for economic development.

Residents upset over noise
Ever since Oconee Metal Recovery installed a car shredder, residents in the surrounding neighborhood off Washington Street and Flat Shoals Road have complained about noise and vibrations, but the issue has reached a fever pitch lately as residents seek help from a council that, to date, has had its hands tied.

A recent study by Vibra-Tech, a consulting company out of Snellville, concluded that Oconee Metal was abiding by city noise and vibration ordinances, which was consistent with prior testing done by city of Covington officials.

However, in an effort to get a second opinion, the council voted 4-0 (council members Mike Whatley and Janet Goodman were absent) to have a second company do a test for less than $4,000.

Vibra-Tech's test had cost $6,000, but the second test could just test for noise as opposed to vibration, which could lead to a cheaper price, said Planning Director Randy Vinson.

The test will be done in the same fashion so the two resultcan be accurately compared, as area residents were skeptical of Vibra-Tech's results, saying Oconee Metal officials knew the test was taking place ahead of time.
If the company is following the law then it's not a pubic nuisance; however, individual residents could file a private nuisance complaint with the city's municipal court, and the judge would then rule on the issue, City Attorney Ed Crudup said.

Oconee Metal's owner Ed Cloud attended the meeting and was asked if he could muffle the sound of the shredder or build a structure over it. Cloud said he didn't know if a structure could be placed over it, but he would look into deflectors, though he cautioned the cost wouldn't be cheap.

Highway 36 to get name change
The city of Covington and state of Georgia are in the process of swapping ownership of two roads.

The portion of what is currently Highway 36 between the Covington Bypass Road and the square will revert to a city road, while the Covington Bypass Road from Highway 36 to U.S. Highway 278 will become a state highway.
Once that swap is official, the roads will have to be renamed, which will affect some resident's street addresses.

The council voted 4-0 to officially rename the portion of road between King Street and the Covington Bypass Road to Jackson Highway, its traditional name.

The change will affect 52 residents who currently have either Highway 36 or Monticello Street addresses.

The portion of the road from Clark Street to King Street will continue to be named Monticello Street.

Industries look at land around airport
The Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce has been shopping 72 acres of land around the Covington Municipal Airport to potential industries, but the city found out recently that land is designated to be used for aeronautical purposes.

The council voted 4-0 to apply to the Federal Aviation Administration to release that land from having to be used for aeronautical purposes.

If the FAA does respect that request, the land will still have two stipulations on it if it's ever sold in the future:
• the land will have to be sold for fair market value
• any money made has to be set aside for aviation use and must be used within five years
The 72 acres are located off City Pond Road near Nisshinbo, a Japanese-brake manufacturing company.

Cooling off in hot times
The Rev. Clara Lett, director of the local homeless shelter, approached the council Monday and asked them to spread the word about a temporary cooling area she's setting up for homeless residents and those without power at the Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter at 7133 Turner Lake Circle, Covington.

City Manager Steve Horton said the city can put the notice on the PEG channel, but also noted that when the temperatures get really high or really low the city will not cut off residents who have not paid their utility bills.

Budget billing to start Aug. 1
Mayor Ronnie Johnston said the city hopes to begin offering budget, or levelized, billing Aug. 1, and he urged interested residents to call or visit the city to see if the utility billing system would be a good fit for them.

The program would basically work like this: the last 12 months of a customer's utility payments would be averaged, and the customer would then be charged that average payment each month for the next 12 months. Payment overages and underages would then likely be settled at the end of the year. For more information call the city at (770) 385-2000.

Armadillos, raccoons added to firearm ordinance
The city council approved the final reading of an ordinance that allows city residents to shoot rodents in the city limits, but only if they get an annual permit and only if they use "a .410-gauge shotgun with shells loaded with number 6 or smaller shot or .22-caliber rifles or pistols loaded with ‘rat' or ‘scatter' shot cartridges."

In the second reading, the council added armadillos and raccoons to the ordinance.

The council approved the ordinance by a 2-2 vote, with councilwomen Ocie Franklin and Hawnethia Williams opposing and Mayor Ronnie Johnston casting what he believed to be his first tie-breaking vote since coming into office Jan.1.