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City grants incentives to possible new manufacturer
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The Covington City Council approved an incentive package for Project Box, which the Newton-Covington Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Department brought to the city.

According to Serra Hall, Director of Commercial Development, Project Box is the name given to the $35 million investment a manufacturing company will make if it builds a plant in Covington. The new plant would provide a minimum of 102 jobs, and may create up to 160 jobs, she said.

“This is actually a state project brought our way,” she said. “We’ve had this one since late 2015 trying to find the right location.”

The property being considered by the manufacturer is on City Pond Road.

“We all know how difficult that is to navigate because of the sharp curve,” said City Manager Leigh Anne Knight. She said it would cost $537,000 to realign the road and relocate utilities along the road, which could be funded by Special Project Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) monies and would have the added benefit of “enhancing the property on Bob Williams Road as well.”

City incentives include reducing gas supply costs by 20 percent the first year, 10 percent the second and 5 percent the third. According to the letter to the project developer, the current cost for a firm supply of natural gas is $8.15 per thousand cubic feet (MCF), $4.50 MCF for non-fixed rates, which vary according to the market cost of gas. The city will provide the service to the plant location.

The city offers a rate of 7.80 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh) for the first five years, with rates after that period rolled into the city’s industrial rate. The city will also make nine poles with 12 lights available for the parking lot and entrance drive at a monthly lease of $647.80, absorbing the upfront cost for the installation of the lights.

It will also offer dark fiber to the location, if needed, for $250 per month for the first two years. After that, service would cost $450 per month. Dark fiber is fiber-optic cable lines that have been laid but are currently unused. The dark strands can be leased to individuals or companies, allowing them to establish optical connections at their location without incurring the additional cost of laying new lines.

The motion was approved 6-0.

Good neighbor action

Funds left over from a city of Covington loan program that helped some residents upgrade their homes and appliances, making them more energy efficient, will be turned back in to the Electric Cities of Georgia (ECG), Inc.

The city council approved a resolution that would turn the $172,000 balance left in a grant program funded by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) to the ECG. The money is needed by the city of Camilla for a similar loan program.

“We were one of the first three cities in the state to receive this loan from ECG, and because we haven’t used any more in the last few years, they asked if we could allow another city to use the funds.”

Knight said Covington citizens borrowed a total of $360,000 since the energy efficiency loan program began in 2010. “We had a real big blitz when the program started. We’ve not had the requests for additional funding, and we think we’re at a good point where we can [return the money].”

Monthly loan payments from borrowers will go into a fund for future loans requests, she said.

“We think it would be a good idea to let Camilla have the funds,” said Knight. “We have leftovers; Camilla needs funds.”

“So this is us being a good neighbor?” asked Mayor Ronnie Johnston. He said he wanted to make sure “we don’t lose that money to help others.”

“We have $360,000 loaned out, and as it's paid back, we’ll have additional funds,” she said. “We’re not going to deplete ourselves completely.”

The motion was approved 5-0.

Fire department promotions

Saying the competition for promotion was stiff, Covington Fire Chief Stoney Bowles introduced three of the four newly promoted fire fighters to the Covington City Council Monday night.

The employees promoted were: Steven Middlebrooks, deputy chief; James Cox, captain; Tim Martin, lieutenant; and Mike Jones, who was not present at Monday’s meeting, engineer.

The city council also approved:

  • An ordinance making it illegal for motorists to cut across private property, including parking lots, to avoid traffic lights. The ordinance repeals conflicting ordinances and creates a new section specifically about off road “through traffic on private property;”
  • An ordinance amending the section of the city’s municipal code that set design standards for developers. The ordinance makes it possible for the engineering department to approve the continuation of pre-2008, multi-phased developments that had already been approved and started (see story, “No more avoiding red lights if city ordinance passes,” at;
  • An ordinance permitting scenic and sightseeing transportation in areas zoned Town Center Mix Use, including the area around the historic Square, and Corridor Mixed-Use, included the area around State Route 278 and I-20;
  • An ordinance to remove pharmacies and drug stores from retail trade use in heavily populated residential areas, zoned NR3;
  • An ordinance amending the heavy industry zoning codes, allowing transitional housing, provided a special use permit is granted, and adds motion picture and sound recording industries.
  • A resolution declaring the city’s support for The Overlook at Walker’s Bend, needed for the facility to apply for a Department of Community Affairs (DCA) tax credit;
  • A contract with Peach State, Inc., for the city’s maintenance needs, May 4, 2016 to May 4, 2017. The city listed possible projects to be complete, and the company submitted cost per unit, limited to a total expenditure of $50,000 per year.
  • Approved a structure lease agreement with New Cingular Wireless PCC, L.L.C., for the lease of tower equipment and other equipment.

Road closures were approved for:

  • The Newton County Special Olympics opening parade, May 2.
  • Witches Night Out and Midnight Dash, 4:30 to 7 p.m., Oct. 15. The rolling road closure will follow the route of the dash, which runs along College Avenue to Oak Street to East to Davis, out on Conyers to Legion Drive Southeast, Academy Springs Circle, Dorchester Drive Southeast, before turning back on to Conyers Road and East Street before returning to the Square.
  • Friday Night Bites, May 15, 5 p.m., sponsored by Main Street and the Covington-Newton Chamber of Commerce Department of Tourism. The finale of Season 7 of “The Vampire Diaries,” will be broadcast on the Square.