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City to consider fire code options
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Old buildings might not meet new fire codes. But city officials are considering ways to ensure that doesn’t mean those buildings have to close their doors.

Monday night, Covington Fire Department Chief John McNeil asked the council to amend city ordinances to allow alternatives to some fire codes when it comes to old businesses built before new laws took effect.

Some businesses, he said, might not have two entrances. By adopting new alternatives based on state ordinances, the fire marshal might be able to suggest, say, an “early warning system” as a replacement for a second exit. It’s a way to “work with historic buildings” without consigning them to history books, he said.

Mayor Ronnie Johnston suggested tabling the issue for now, and the council agreed.

“It’s pretty detailed stuff,” Johnston said. “Let’s make sure we’re addressing what the city needs.”

A work session will be scheduled to discuss the idea.

City considers busing grant

Engineer Vincent Passariello asked the council to consider applying for a rare grant from the state Department of Transportation which might allow the city to buy buses and a maintenance and storage garage to help local public transportation.

The council tabled the idea until July 14 to learn more.

In a nutshell, Passariello said, the application for the grant is due Aug. 4, and requires a 20 percent match by the city. The GDOT has $100 million to spend, and he admitted most would likely go to Atlanta’s MARTA system. But some might be available for Covington. The city should apply in any case, he said, as it can always deny the grant if it’s awarded.
Johnston was hesitant because of the possible precedent.

“Right now there may be some need, I’m not saying there’s not, but right now it seems like shooting in the dark,” he said. Where is the service needed? How will the city pay for it when the grant runs out? The grant includes only money to buy equipment, not maintain or replace it.

“There’s need all over here,” Councilwoman Janet A. Goodman agreed, “but there’s a lot of questions for me.”
Johnston said the idea is tempting, “but we might be creating a humongous problem four or five years down the road.”
Goodman agreed: “We need to look at it before we say no.”

I-20 overpass lights approved

The council also unanimously voted to provide electricity and maintenance to new streetlights planned for the proposed I-20 pedestrian overpass, a project similar to the Turner Lake underpass. The agreement is for 50 years, but city attorney Edward Crudup Jr. said that was nothing unusual.

The council’s next meeting will be at 6 p.m. July 14, and it will include a discussion of changes to the city parking ordinance.