The Covington City Council affirmed its commitment to being a film-friendly city Monday, unanimously voting against charging any permit fees to filming companies.
City Manager Steve Horton brought up the fee question because city employees have to devote time, outside of normal day-to-day duties, to meet with and help filming companies.
The additional work has not led to overtime costs for the city, staff said, and Councilman Chris Smith worried a fee could hurt Covington's filming attractiveness and reduce tourist revenue in the future. He made the motion to not charge any fees, which passed 6-0.
The Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce supported the vote.
"We are pleased and thankful the city council was in unanimous agreement with the chamber that we should not do anything to hinder our successful relationship with the film and TV industry," President Hunter Hall said in a Tuesday email. "We want producers and location scouts around the state of Georgia to know that we are open for business and will do everything in our power to make their production a success."
Transportation Manager Billy Skinner and Assistant Transportation Manager Terry Savage are particularly affected by filming because they have to coordinate road closings for shoots. Whenever filming takes place on the square, the city has to get approval from the state because the roads that compose the square are a state highway, Ga. Highway 36. Skinner and Savage also have to coordinate with the Covington Police Department and Main Street Covington
Horton said filming meetings are often called on short notice and can involve several city employees.
"But for the tourist impact it puts on Covington is it worth taking the chance of pushing them down to Madison and Conyers for that nominal fee?" Smith asked.
"Is that nominal fee going to push them down?" Horton asked.
According to research from Tourism Director Clara Deemer, Conyers, Madison and Monroe do not charge any filming fees. Decatur charges a $100 per day permit fee and a $500 per day inconvenience fee for street closures. Marietta charges a $25 permit fee and a use of city property fee for $250. Deemer did not know whether Marietta's fees were on a per day basis.
Though the additional work places a burden on staff, Skinner said he is still able to perform his duties.
"It does (affect us). We have to take time to do that because it's on a timeline. Only a few days to make our turn around to the state and everything else. It does impact us," Skinner said in Monday's work session.
When asked if he could still complete his other duties, he said "We have to get our other job done too, so we do it. We just have to buckle down a little more and get it done."