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City to spend $50,000 on Square
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Now that the Covington City Council reached a consensus on what it wants done to the Square, council members have to decide how much they’re willing to spend.

The total proposed budget for the improvements is $68,000, but Councilmen Chris Smith and Keith Dalton said last week they didn’t want to spend more than $50,000 on the park.

The council members didn’t specify what they wanted to cut, but councilwomen Janet Goodman, Ocie Franklin and Hawnethia Williams weren’t at last week’s budget work session, so they weren’t able to weigh in.

The proposed $68,000 included $13,000 to tear up the existing brick and concrete plaza on the Square’s southeast side caddy corner to Scoops, and replace it with a raised concrete plaza band plaza. Covington Planning Director Randy Vinson said the plaza has to be replaced because it will be largely torn up when the flag pole is removed and placed on the opposite side of the Square with the veterans memorial plaza.

The plaza is going to be elevated 14 inches. Vinson said officials with the Arts Association in Newton County asked for the plaza to be two feet tall, but at that height the plaza would need to have stairs and a rail around it, Vinson said. The council members present weren’t in favor of the change.

The veterans memorial plaza will cost $24,000 and landscaping will cost $31,000.

The consensus was to start work the day after the Fourth of July celebration.

Other budget items
Smith reiterated his desire to see the former Moser property in the Covington Mill neighborhood on Sorrells Street turned into a public park.

The city condemned and demolished the home on the property because it had fallen into a dangerous state of disrepair. City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said she would check with planning and zoning officials; the property is still owned by the Moser family but has city liens.

The city will set aside $110,000 next year for demolition of condemned houses. Vinson said the city can’t move any quicker because of the legal process required to demolish a house.

As of mid-February of this year, the city had torn down 109 units, including single-family homes and some multi-unit structures, during the past four years. Smith said there will still a lot of properties that had been boarded up that needed to be torn down. Vinson said the city can board up a house more easily than it can tear one down, as that’s only allowed when it becomes a safety issue or has other habitual problems.

The Newton County Library System asked for an increase in city funding to $30,000, but Smith and Whatley said they wanted to keep funding at the current funding of $15,000. The library system receives the majority of its funding from the county and also receives money from the state.

The city is planning to use its free wireless internet service it offers downtown to promote city events. Covington Information Systems Manager Bobby Johnson said about 200-220 are using the internet at any given time during the day. Mayor Ronnie Johnston said the login screen that comes up could be a great public relations vehicle for the city by being used to promote events and other city announcements.

Officials also talked about making a better effort to keep the Covington city website updated more frequently.
City Hall is going to get a new fire alarm system at a cost of $25,000 and will see $0,000 worth of improvements to the council room and lobby area.