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City talks limits on night filming
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As "The Vampire Diaries" prepped for major filming downtown, Covington City Council members discussed at their Monday meeting whether or not they should have time restrictions on filming in neighborhoods within the city limits.

Mayor Ronnie Johnston told the council that an agreement was made with Bonanza Productions, the company that films Vampire Diaries, that said if filming was going to be done in neighborhoods and residential areas after 11 p.m., the filming crews would first have to notify and get permission from all of the residents within a 500-square-foot radius.

Johnston said the agreement sounded great and made a lot of sense at the time, but the filming crews recently ran into a problem where they didn't have the support from 100 percent of the residents. He said about five out of 80 people were not in the support of filming being done after 11 p.m. on one particular day, and the city took a stand and did not allow filming crews to film in that neighborhood.

He told the council that he did some research and found that some cities in California had a restriction that prohibited filming in neighborhoods after 10 p.m. He asked the council to start thinking about what time they thought would be fair as a cut of time for filming and if they should continue requiring 100 percent of support from the citizens before filming could take place in neighborhoods.

"We want industry to come into the city of Covington, we want tourism, we want those things, but we want to represent and take care of our citizens," Johnston said. "In all fairness to our business partners, I think they need some clear direction.

"I also think that it's partly our responsibility to look at the economic development impact."

Johnston said the council did not have to make a decision at the meeting, and said they would discuss creating some type of policy at a future meeting.

In other council business, Johnston gave the council an update on the status of the homeless shelter. He said that thanks to the help of the citizens in Covington and council members a total of $16,220 was raised for the shelter to pay for its utility bill.

Johnston said he asked everyone in the community to step up and help the shelter and he was grateful that they showed overwhelming support.

The Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter was on the verge of having its utilities cut off because it had no money to pay its latest Covington utility bill, which was $5,320 for the shelter's three buildings off Turner Lake Circle in Covington. Johnston set up an account at Newton Federal Bank for the shelter, which he said was still open if anyone wanted to continue contributing. He encouraged council members and others to get more involved with the shelter.

Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams applauded the mayor for getting involved with the shelter and agreed that more people should get involved, but she said she would hope that anyone who did get involve would not undermine the work and direction of the shelter's Executive Director the Rev. Clara Lett.

"We don't want to in our future endeavors exclude people because we are ignoring the past and moving to the future," Williams said. "We should be inclusive of others as well."