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Fireworks back in Covington for Fourth
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Fourth of July fireworks will return to Covington for the first time in three years, as the Covington City Council on Monday unanimously approved spending $6,000 for a celebration.

Covington's Independence Day event celebration will be held on Sunday, July 3. Porterdale has already scheduled its celebration and fireworks for July 4. Oxford will kick off festivities with its annual parade on July 2.

Covington's celebration will cost $12,000, which will pay for a fireworks display and musical entertainment. Main Street Covington will pay the additional $6,000. Main Street receives its funding from both Covington and Newton County.

City Manager Steve Horton and some council members said some city residents had complained in the past two years when the city chose not to fund fireworks displays. Historically, the city and county had split the cost 50-50. The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted not to fund their half in 2009 because of a budget crunch, and did not express interest in spending money on a celebration in 2010. The county will not be asked for funding this year.

City down to one tattoo parlor
In other city news, tattoo parlors are not allowed in Covington because of an administrative error. The council voted to correct that Monday night, approving the first reading of an ordinance change that will allow tattoo parlors in corridor mix and light industrial zonings. The ordinance will go into effect when the council approves the second reading of the ordinance at its April 4 meeting.

Tattoo parlors used to be allowed in Covington, but they were left out of the zoning uses when the zoning ordinance code was overhauled in 2008.

Because of the error Covington is now down to one tattoo parlor, after Elektryk Inkk owner William Wyckoff said Monday he was moving his business out of Covington.

Elektryk Inkk has been in business for nine years, according to Wyckoff, so his location was grandfathered into the law. However, the building he was renting was put up for sale and he was forced to move, he said in a previous email to The News.

He found another location in the Fred's shopping center, but when he went to check the zoning he found out that tattoo parlors were not allowed.

"It was like getting hit by a car...this is how I support my family...9 years in the city (and) you can't just up and move a tattoo shop," he said in the e-mail.

Wyckoff expressed his disappointment during the meeting and said he felt he was being "pushed out". He said he was the one who first pushed for tattoo parlors to be allowed in Covington. He and his wife, who is a co-owner, left the meeting as the council was casting its vote.

It was unclear whether Wyckoff understood that the zoning was being changed to allow him to stay in Covington.

City pursuing community center in Walker's Bend neighborhood
The city is also pursuing the construction of a community center in the Walker's Bend neighborhood, which city officials have actively been trying to revitalize for the past couple years. The 4-story, 39,460-square-foot building would cost $3.35 million. It would house 12 one-bedroom and 18 two-bedroom apartments on the top three floors, and 4,500 square feet of retail space and a 4,500 square foot commercial kitchen on the first floor. The retail space could be used as a new business incubator.

The council voted to allow grant writer Randy Connor to submit an application for a $800,000 state grant that would provide partial funding for the building. The rest of the funding would have to come from the county.

Covington is going to ask for Newton County's $435,000 of remaining Neighborhood Stabilization Program money, as well as $1.1 million in new Neighborhood Stabilization Program money the county could receive. The county had previously decided it did not want to use that money because of the complications associated with it, Commissioner Tim Fleming said Monday night. He attended the meeting because Covington is in his district.

The remaining slightly more than $1 million would come from SPLOST. The Newton County Board of Commissioners approved giving $1.1 million in 2011 SPLOST money for "District 4 improvements."

The money was designed to go to a workforce development center among other things, and city Planning Director Randy Vinson is talking with District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson to find out whether the Walker's Bend center would fit the bill.

Connor said the city would not start construction or move forward on the project unless it had all funding secured.

The city hopes the center would continue the process of revitalizing Walker's Bend neighborhood, which is located off of Ga. Highway 81, just south of the intersection with Turner Lake Road.