Local residents are asking the Covington City Council to allow them to use hunting bows within the city limits in order to control a deer population that is damaging vegetation and causing car accidents.
David Waller, a city resident and a former Georgia Wildlife Federation employee, told the council Monday night that allowing hunting with bows and arrows would be a safe, inexpensive way to control the deer population, as opposed to having to hire federal sharpshooters to kill deer.
"(Archery is) as safe as anything you can do," Waller said in response to council members questions about safety and risk. He said he couldn’t remember a single incident where an archer had shot another person.
Current city ordinances do not allow bows or guns to be fired in the city limits, but Waller proposed writing an ordinance that would allow bows to be fired in the city as long as the hunter was farther than 100 yards from any residence. In addition, hunting could only take place during the normal hunting season, which runs from the second Saturday in September through Jan. 1, and hunters would have to get permission to hunt from the property owner and follow all normal hunting regulations.
City Manager Steve Horton confirmed that the city had previously hired U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters to reduce the deer population. In addition, Public Works Director Billy Bouchillon said the city has had bow hunters at its Land Application Systems facility for years and has never had an accident. The facility is not within the city limits.
Mayor Kim Carter asked if 100 yards was sufficient and said the city should give careful consideration to that limit. Waller said arrows have much shorter flight paths than bullets, and archers are generally in tree stands and shoot straight down, so the danger of an errant shot is very low.
Councilman Keith Dalton expressed support and said his family members have had a few deer-related accidents when visiting him. Councilwomen Ocie Franklin and Hawnethia Williams said they have both seen several deer, even in the heart of the city, but Williams expressed concern about the precedent the city might set. Hers was the lone opposition vote in a 5-1 decision to allow the city attorney to write up a proposed bow hunting ordinance. When a draft of an ordinance is created, it will come back before the city council.
o In other news, Franklin expressed concern over a large cookout and party involving a few hundred residents that was held Saturday at Spillers Park in the Nelson Heights neighborhood. Franklin and Williams said events like this have happened in the past and have caused damage to the park and surrounding areas, and they expressed concern for residents’ safety.
Police Chief Stacey Cotton said he heard the event was going to take place late last week but could not stop it from happening, because Spillers Park is owned by the Newton Recreation Commission, which is the organization that authorizes people to use the park on a first come, first serve basis.
The recreation commission does require interested parties to coordinate with the Covington Police Department when planning an event. However, Cotton said when his officers asked the party attendees, they told him they had permission from the recreation commission.
After speaking with recreation officials, Cotton found out that District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson had been planning a "Community Day" at the park.. Cotton said he assumed the attendees had permission because Henderson, who is also a member of the recreation commission, had organized the event.
According to Henderson, he had County Clerk Jackie Smith send notifications to the CPD when he first was organizing the event, and when he cancelled it around July 12. CPD Captain Willie Davis confirmed he had received notification on both occasions, but had not passed along information to Chief Cotton, because nothing ever officially took place.
Henderson said Tuesday he cancelled his event because he heard other events were taking place. Cotton said the bottom line is that no one notified the CPD of the event, and if Henderson was not involved, organizers did not have permission from the recreation commission.
"We’ll do our best to find out who put this on, so we can head it off next year," Henderson said.
Cotton and Franklin said this has been a problem for the past few years. Henderson said he had not organized events in previous years.
Franklin and Williams said Monday night they would set up a meeting with Henderson to address these issues.
o The city council approved the purchase of 17 more lots in Walker’s Bend by the Covington Redevelopment Authority, as well as another house for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
The 17 lots are contained on four multi-family pads near the entrance of the subdivision and were purchased for $85,911 from Compass Holdings, which originally purchased the lots from Community Capital Bank, Planning Director Randy Vinson said.
Vinson said the plan was to turn these lots over to the Covington Housing Authority to construct apartments or townhomes in the future, once the city can secure money for the construction.
In addition, the city loaned $37,926 to the NSP fund in order to purchase an additional home, also in Walker’s Bend. The reason for the loan is that the city was awarded $75,000 in additional NSP money by the state but doesn’t get the money until it makes the purchases. The money will be repaid once the state reimburses the NSP fund.
Finally, the private development firm Affordable Equity Partners recently agreed to purchase 28 lots from the CRA to build 32 single-family affordable homes, if it can get a state tax credit. However, Vinson said a recent market study by AEP came back so favorably, the firm is considering a second phase for 2012.