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Covington to hire grant writer
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Covington will be adding a new employee, as the city council approved adding a grant writer/finance position to this year’s budget.

The position’s long-term future will be focused on seeking out, writing and administering grants, but in the short-term the employee will focus on administering the money associated with the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Covington received $428,000 as part of the NSP, a federal program that provides money to local governments to purchase, rehabilitate and resell foreclosed properties. Covington is planning to work in multiple neighborhoods, which could include Jefferson Village, Green Acres and Nelson Heights and was purchasing a property in the Sterling Lake neighborhood off Flat Shoals Road as of late July.

The NSP, as with many grants, requires a large amount of paperwork. When homes are resold to residents, the money given to the city is reinvested into the NSP, so it’s also possible the program could continue into the future.

City Manager Steve Horton said city officials don’t expect the NSP to continue far past the original $428,000, but that’s where the grant-writing duties would start.

Mayor Kim Carter said there is a wealth of grant money available, especially with the federal stimulus package, but the city has not been proactive in going after grants in the past.

"If this person gets one grant, it will pay for their salary right off the bat," Carter said. "This is a great opportunity to get everything we can get from federal and state programs."

In addition, Horton said this employee might be responsible for learning the city’s utility billing system, in order to backup that small department when someone is sick or on vacation.

A job description and salary will be determined by Personnel Director Ronnie Cowan, but previous discussions put the salary around $50,000, Horton said. The position will be in the finance department and will report to Finance Director Leigh Anne Knight.

The council approved the position unanimously 5-0, with Councilman Keith Dalton absent.

In other news, the council is considering terminating its contract with Dixie Jet Service, the airport’s fixed-based operator, not because of any breach of contract, but because it wants to pursue a more modern operation.

At the Sept. 21 council meeting, the council voted to terminate the contact, conditional on a contract review by City Attorney Ed Crudup, based on the fact that Dixie Jet had violated the contract by allowing its insurance coverage to lapse for more than 10 working days.

After reviewing the contract, Crudup determined that the contract was not violated, because of a stipulation that the bank for the FBO, South Trust Bank, had an 30 additional working days to restore insurance. Since the insurance was reinstated within that 30 extra days, Crudup said the contract had not been breached.

However, Mayor Kim Carter asked the council to consider early termination of the contract because the FBO model was outdated. She said she and Councilman John Howard have traveled across the state studying other municipal airports, and she said that in most cases either the city itself, or some sort of airport or development authority runs the airport.

Crudup said the contract is set to expire in 2019.

If the contract is terminated early, the city would have to reimburse Dixie Jet for the $527,200 that the company spent on airport improvement, including a hangar and administration buildings. However Dixie Jet’s attorney Craig Oakes, with the firm Bryant and Oakes, disagreed about the wording of the contract and said Dixie Jet should also be reimbursed for improvements made after the contract was amended with that $527,200 amount in 2001.

At one point Councilman Mike Whatley made a motion for early termination, which was seconded by Councilwoman Ocie Franklin, but in the end the council decided to let the attorneys meet in order to work out exactly what the compensation would be.

After the meeting, the council could still vote for early termination, or it could continue to contract with Dixie Jet to run the airport.