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Fireworks funding fizzles out
County, Covington cut back on costs
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The Covington July 4th Fireworks Extravaganza will probably not take place this year, unless a private citizen or organization pays for, organizes and hosts the event.  The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted not to fund their $3,790 portion of the event on March 5 and the Covington City Council was waiting to see if a private organization could be found to partner with.

The Church at Covington Pastor David Payne had been trying to organize the event, but without any guaranteed support from the county this year he was unable to secure the corporate sponsors or organize the necessary logistics like in years past.

“It’s way past deadline to be able to pull this off,” Payne said.

Payne said between 15,000 and 20,000 people attended the event in previous years, which necessitated between 40 and 60 police, fire, medical and other emergency personnel being on hand. Payne said the church needed to raise between $50,000 and $60,000, which wasn’t possible in such a short time period.

Several city council members and commissioners expressed disappointment at the result.

“That’s a shame,” Mayor Kim Carter said in Monday’s work session after hearing the news. “The economic development impact alone [would have made up for the costs].”

Commissioners Earnest Simmons and J.C. Henderson wanted to fund the fireworks and were disappointed with the vote.

“I personally thought it was good, because it brought a lot of people together,” Henderson said. “Even though we have budget constraints, it wasn't that much money to make any type of difference in our general fund, and by saying that, I mean the camaraderie it would bring; I thought the money would pay good dividends.”

However, commissioners Mort Ewing, Tim Fleming and Nancy Schulz felt that the county couldn’t afford any unnecessary expenses.

In other city news, the council approved their part of a joint request to petition the state to lower the drought water restrictions. The city council voted to request a Level IV c restriction, which allows water to be used for irrigating landscapes and washing vehicles, hard surfaces and buildings, among other uses, for three days every week an odd-even address schedule.

The county will officially petition the state, but all of the eight wholesale water customers will also send a request to the state, including: Newton County Water/Sewer Authority; the cities of Covington, Oxford, Porterdale, Mansfield, Newborn; Jasper County Water Authority; Alcovy Shores; and Walton County Water/Sewer Authority who owns 25% of the reservoir and treatment plant.

The Newton County “Drought Team”, which consists of the eight wholesale customers and the Newton County Water Resources department, met on April 2 and agreed it would like lowered restrictions, said Karl Kelley, director of Newton County Water Resources Department.

Kelley presented the county’s current water situation and drought team’s recommendations to the BOC Tuesday night. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday evening, Chairman Morgan was not sure if the BOC was going to vote on the recommendation.

As of March, 52 local governments and other entities have been granted relaxed outdoor water use restrictions, according to the state. Surrounding Rockdale and Henry counties have been at Level IV c restrictions for a couple of months.
On April 3, State Climatologist David Stooksbury declared that almost all of Georgia is out of drought conditions, including Newton County.