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City to help business- led improvements
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Mayor Ronnie Johnston convinced the Covington City Council to take a “gamble” Monday and give $25,000 to the forming “community improvement district (CID),” which business owners are forming along U.S. 278 to raise money for area improvements.

A CID allows businesses, with the approval of the city and state legislature, to raise taxes on themselves provided 51 percent of business owners controlling 75 percent of the tax base agree. The money, which is over and above the taxes normally collected by the city, would be used to pay for everything from new sidewalks to landscaping.

“I am extremely excited about it and this is not a governmental thing,” Johnston said. The group, which does not have a formal name, has assured him that having 51 percent of owners signing on will happen. But it has not happened yet.

“This is a great, great way to get a corridor revamped in a much shorter time than a government could normally do it,” he said. He called the city’s $25,000 contribution “seed money,” but warned council members that “this is a gamble a little bit.”

The corridor will include businesses, but no residences, from Exit 90 to Martin’s Crossing, where the old Wal-Mart stood.
City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said the CID board is considering 3 percent to 5 percent increases in their millage rates, with all increases to come back to the non-profit board to be spent on improvements along the corridor. The CID process has been tried at least seven times in Georgia, including Gwinnett Commons, and has been successful.

She said the formation of a CID opens the area to grants that would not normally be available to governments.

Johnston acknowledged that some business owners won’t like the idea, but the city’s involvement should be a good thing overall.

“Yes, the city of Covington is engaged in the process and we want (business owners) to see improvement in your area.”
He said all banks along the corridor have committed to the project, as has the Kroger complex.