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Covington swears in councilmembers
County asks for city's assistance in Bear Creek mitigation process
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The three winners of the Nov. 3 Covington city council election were sworn in Monday night and received raucous applause from a crowded council room.

Post 3 West Councilwoman Ocie Franklin and Post 2 West Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams took the oath of office for the second time, while Post 1 East Councilman-elect Chris Smith made that promise for the first time.

"First of all I thank God for allowing my presence here today and let me say now is the time to thank all of you who went to polls on Nov. 3 to make sure Miss Williams and I came back," Franklin said, as supporters cheered in the background.

Mayor Kim Carter swore in all three members and congratulated them on their victories.

"Public service sometimes can be thankless but many times is the most role you will ever play in your entire lives. Despite the frustration, there are many, many good parts in service. That's why we're in it, to help our fellow man," Carter said.
In other council news, County Attorney Tommy Craig made a presentation about Bear Creek Reservoir and asked the city council to help with the county's mitigation process.

Because a reservoir project has a large environmental impact, the Army Corps of Engineers requires that agencies undertaking a project protect land in different parts of the county, in order to make up for the environmental disruption.

"We are doing bad work in the eyes of people concerned with preserving natural resources, and we have to do good works in exchange," Craig explained. "The way we do good works is to restore, enhance or preserve wetlands and or streams. And in any community where we do this kind of work we try to first identity community assets or large tracts of land already in public ownership."

As a result of that, Craig and the county asked the city to donate some easement at the Land Application System, so that the county could install 100-foot stream buffers, which would meet the preservation requirement. The LAS already has
some stream buffer, but not out to 100 feet.

LAS Manager David Croom said the city did not have any use for the easements that would be given along the stream and he didn't think there would be any future use either.

The reservoir would affect 135 acres of wetlands and 125,669 linear feet of streams, and Craig said the county had to restore, enhance or preserve a similar amount of land and streams. The county has already gathered easements from other private landowners and public areas and Craig said the LAS easements would probably meet the Army Corps requirement.

At first, Carter wanted the county to give the city some easement in return, like any easement around the railroad if the county ever purchased that. However, Craig said he thought it would inadvisable to tie those projects together, and in the end the council decided to donate the easement to the county.

Councilman Mike Whatley said that the city and county have had a contentious relationship at times, and if water wasn't so important to the county's future, then he wouldn't vote to donate this land to the county.

"In the past we tried to work with the county and, in the past the county in several issues has refused to work with us ... this may be the one and only time I vote to give something to the county with nothing in return.

However, the importance of water to the future of this community swayed every member, including Councilman Keith Dalton, who has discussed the future of water in Georgia on the Governor's Water Council.

"That's why I made the motion and do stand behind it ... I think it's very imperative to our economic development in the future. The more water we have the better off we are as a city, county, everything," Dalton said.

Carter said the council would take the high road and donate the easement, but would like future consideration from the county.

On Tuesday, Scott Pippin, an attorney in Craig's office, said the county will file a revised mitigation plan in mid-December, after a couple of other minor issues are resolved.

"Once the plan is filed, we are at the mercy of the Army Corps of Engineers as to if or when the plan is approved, and it will be up to them to determine what are next steps will be," he said by e-mail. "However, we are hopeful and optimistic that approval will come quickly once the revised mitigation plan is filed."