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Tourism, cleaning I-20 exits on mayor's radar
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As part of his efforts to make Covington more attractive to new residents and tourists, Mayor Ronnie Johnston wants to see the town clean itself up and do a better job of marketing itself.

At Monday’s council meeting, Johnston proposed having the council really study how it’s marketing itself to potential tourists, and whether it’s getting the most bang for the buck out of the $300,000 it currently spends on tourism.

He said around $100,000 of hotel/motel tax revenue goes to Main Street Covington for tourism and another $200,000 goes to the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

Johnston said branding is important and there are a lot of different messages coming out of Covington, which he said isn’t necessarily bad, but he wants to comprehensively look at the issue.

He asked the council to have a work session so that it can give clear direction to Main Street and the chamber and make sure the money is being spent in the best way.

Clean up entrances
Another project Johnston wants to tackle is cleaning up Covington’s entrances, particularly those off of Interstate 20, because they are the first impression for many visitors.

He said people might think the solution is simple: just mow the area and pick up the trash.

However, it becomes a little more complicated because the state actually owns some of that land.

Johnston asked the council if they supported him reaching out and working with all parties involved, including the Georgia Department of Transportation and the county, to work on cleaning up and even landscaping those entrances.

Rockdale County has some nicely landscaped interstate exchanges, and while Johnston said that level may be unrealistic now, he still wants to see some improvements.

Councilman Chris Smith agreed that exit 90 does not look good, despite the welcome sign.

Even the welcome signs at exit 90 and exit 92 are different, which causes complaints Johnston said, as one says Covington-Newton County “welcome you” and ones says “welcomes you.”

Mowing and litter pick up are the top priorities though.

“The use of local government staff, prison detail crews and court-ordered community service workers could help fill the gap needed to carry out these tasks,” read a press release handed out by the mayor after the meeting. “Any required contractual agreements between the city and the Georgia Department of Transportation will be brought back before the City Council for a formal vote.”

The City Council did not vote on either proposal but gave informal support to move forward.