The City of Covington will not purchase the Norfolk Southern railroad. The council voted 5-1 to end any city involvement in the purchase of the railroad. Councilwoman Janet Goodman was the only member opposed.
The railroad discussion was not listed on the Monday night’s agenda but was added at the request of Councilman Keith Dalton. When the item came up for consideration at the end of the meeting, Dalton made a motion to end discussion of purchasing the railroad once and for all.
“My feeling is that I don’t want to pursue it with the current economic conditions, and things going on like we mentioned earlier with the schools system and the county, and I’d like for us to back off and not be in the railroad purchasing business,” Dalton said. Councilman Chris Smith seconded the motion.
“Even before we have the meeting to learn the facts?” Mayor Kim Carter asked. After Dalton responded yes, the mayor continued, “I’d ask that you keep an open mind to hear the facts … we had said at our retreat that we wanted to have this (meeting) … it’s kind of closed minded,” she said.
Carter called for a vote and council members Dalton, Smith, Ocie Franklin, Mike Whatley and Hawnethia Williams all approved the motion.
“You guys got to be kidding me,” the mayor said. “All opposed? (Goodman opposed) … I’m stunned. I am stunned. You wouldn’t even want to get the facts?”
“We’re done. We’re done with this discussion,” said Smith, who previously said he had been frustrated when the mayor questioned the council after a vote was made.
Carter said she would still like to have an informational meeting, and she told Grant Writer Randy Conner that he could continue gathering facts, which he has been doing for the past four months.
“I’m not interested in doing that,” Dalton said.
“Well I’m interested in doing that,” Carter responded. “There’s a lot of folks in the county interested in hearing that and there’s a lot of concerned citizens are interested in hearing that.”
The April 29 informational railroad meeting is still scheduled to be held at Covington City Hall at 5:30 p.m.
Covington and Newton County have been in discussions to purchase portions of the Norfolk Southern that runs through the county for the past couple of years, stemming from civic center project which approved in the 2005 SPLOST.
The last publically discussed price was $1.8 million for the 14.9-mile stretch of track that runs from Porterdale through Covington to Newborn. The county has a little more than $1 million in grants that could be used to buy the railroad.
The Newton County Board of Commissioners hasn’t yet voted on whether it wants to pursue the railroad purchase. Chairman Kathy Morgan has repeatedly said the BOC is continuing to gather facts and discuss the purchase with Norfolk Southern.