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City plans to increase spending by 1.7M
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The city of Covington plans to increase spending by $1.7 million this fiscal year as it plans to tackle some large projects, including work on a new airport terminal, a natural gas fueling facility, improving lighting on the square and the completion of the trail from Eastside High School to the Covington Branch Library.

The city council approved of more than $124 million for fiscal year 2013 in June, and much of the increase in the budget was due to the city's plans to spend its remaining saved funds from the 2005 SPLOST in addition to incoming 2011 SPLOST funds, Finance Director Leigh Anne Knight said.

"We will use the money from the 2005 SPLOST to finish some of the road projects that we have," she said. "The 2011 SPLOST is split into two different areas. It will be used for the airport terminal, if that project proceeds. Then once that is funded with what is required to be funded by the SPLOST, the other money coming in from SPLOST would go to road projects."

The city has put aside $500,000 of SPLOST funds to use for the airport terminal. However, Knight said moving forward with this project will depend on additional funding from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation.

In addition to the larger individual projects, the city plans to finish several street and water projects.

Road projects will total $1.53 million. Roads covered by SPLOST funding include work on West Street, Harland Drive, the curbing at Eberhardt and the Wheat Street widening from Industrial Boulevard to Hazelbrand Road. The funds will also be used for street paving, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, bike lanes and other striping.

The water department has several new projects planned. They include water sewer maintenance at Geiger Street, Elizabeth Street, Puckett Street and the purchase of Itron leak detection equipment. The estimated cost of these projects is a little more than $1.9 million.

Other transportation projects for the city have a total cost of about $2.6 million. Projects include improving lighting on the square, a pedestrian bridge and completion of Eastside High School to library trail that has been in the works for several years.

Knight said most of these projects depend on additional funding from grants and state aid.

Airport and compressed natural gas
The city also has set aside $800,000 for a natural gas fueling station.

Covington City Manager Steve Horton said the natural gas fueling station would be of great benefit to the city, other local governments and other neighboring cities.

"The City of Covington has discussed for several years now the possibility of using compressed natural gas to fuel part or all of its vehicle fleet," Horton said. "However, the continued gradual increase in the cost of petroleum based fuels has prompted the city to become more concerned and to focus more on the planning and building of a city owned fueling facility."

In addition to the compressed natural gas fueling facility, Horton said the city also plans to extend natural gas mains to Stanton Springs Technology Park to provide gas services to Baxter International and other businesses that may locate in the future.

The city has also put aside $500,000 of SPLOST funds to use for the airport terminal. However, Knight said moving forward with this project will depend on additional funding from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Money sources
City of Covington Financial Coordinator Randy Conner explained the city will continue to look at grants to help fund a lot of its planned projects this year.

"We currently have an active grant application with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for the replacement of the aging water lines in the Puckett Street area of our city. This is only a small portion of the 27 miles of lines that are in need of replacement," Conner said. "We will pursue grant funding, that will be coupled with budgeted funds and SPLOST funds, to provide the dollars necessary to complete the airport terminal. We are also actively seeking funds to go with budgeted funds for the construction of our CNG facility and the conversion of city vehicles to use CNG."

When asked about any major decreases in the budget, Knight said the city didn't have any specific decreases, but they did take a closer look at what was vital this year. She said one area they looked at was the purchasing of new vehicles for a few of their departments.

"If we were purchasing new vehicles, it was an extremely old vehicle and we were utilizing the ones that we had as long as we possibly could," she said.

Knight added that the city looked at general day-to-day operations to make sure departments were using what they needed.

The 2012-2013 budget has revenues projected at $124,396,355 while expenditures are expected to be $123,491,864. The city has a surplus of $672,371, which it was previously reported will go toward employee retirement, the cemetery trust and the city's reserves.

Knight explained how the city looks at its budget each year to determine where money is coming and going.

"I think what you have to look at every year is your projects and your things that you are going to be accomplishing during that year; the things that need to be worked on and changed," she said. "Based on those changes you utilize your resources and your funding, but you also search for funding outside; grants, SPLOST and those types of things. You search for those types of things to come in to offset as much of those cost as you possibly can. Every year is different based on what projects you have on the board and what funding you have obtained for those projects."

The 2012-2013 budget can be viewed in its entirety at city hall.