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City authority buys more Walkers Bend lots
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Correction: The vote on the city's parking ordnance was incorrectly identified in the original story. The city council voted not to temporarily suspend the 2-hour parking limit on the square by a 4-3 vote, with the mayor casting the tie-breaking vote. Councilmen Keith Dalton, Smith and Mike Whatley supported the suspension.

The Covington City Council had several contentious split votes Monday night regarding parking rules on the square, more land purchases in the Walker's Bend subdivision and even a fireworks bid for the July 3 celebration.

Councilman Chris Smith said he had received complaints about the city's decision finally to enforce the two-hour parking rules on the square and made a motion to suspend enforcement. The motion was voted down 4-3, with the mayor casting the tie-breaking vote. Councilmen Keith Dalton, Smith and Mike Whatley supported the suspension.

Mayor Kim Carter said the two-hour rule has been in effect for many years but has never been enforced. The city is embarking on a "Park Smart" initiative to promote parking turnover on the square. She cautioned that all violators will first get a warning and a card explaining the changes.

The council also approved the Covington Redevelopment Authority purchasing 12 more lots for $101,800 in the Walker's Bend subdivision off Ga. Highway 81 just south of the intersection with Turner Lake Road. Carter had voted in favor of the purchase to break a 3-3 tie, with council members Dalton, Smith and Mike Whatley opposed.

The lots are at the entrance to the subdivision and surround the land that is planned to hold eventually a proposed mixed-use building. The money comes out of the original $500,000 seed money that the city loaned to the redevelopment authority. The lots are being purchased from Rialto Capital.

Planning Director Randy Vinson said the city has managed to secure additional funding for the mixed-use building.

The city also approved a $7,065 bid from Pyrotecnico to provide fireworks for the city's July 3 celebration. The bid will pay for 497 shells to be fired off, a 12-minute show. The vote was 4-2 in favor of Pyrotecnico with councilwomen Janet Goodman and Hawnethia Williams opposing.

In other city news, the council voted to not raise water rates until Oct. 1, in order to give area industries more notice. Food production industries, namely General Mills, use large amounts of water while making food products and cannot engage in conservation practices.

The city is raising rates, because it will have to pay more to the county for water. Absorbing those costs from July through September will cost the city about $75,000.

The city also approved the first reading of a revision of its sign ordinance. Among other things, the ordinance requires all ground signs to be "monument signs," brick or masonry signs. Pole signs will not be allowed.

In addition, banners and inflatables would not be allowed, though the council was split on this topic. The council was also split on whether to charge a $25 fee for temporary signs, such as the banners used for seasonal sales.

The city will consider changes to the revised ordinance at its next council meeting.