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Council divided on city charter update
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The city charter was originally written in 1962 and council members agree it needs to be updated; they can't just agree on how.

The council voted unanimously Aug. 1 to set up a work session to discuss how to go about revising the city charter, but in light of Mayor Kim Carter's decision not to seek reelection, Councilman Chris Smith said he felt it would be better to wait until after the new election. The mayor will be new and two council races are contested.

A divided email exchange leading up to this week's council meeting, was followed by a pair of 3-3 votes Tuesday in which the mayor had to cast two tie-breaking votes.

Councilman Chris Smith made a motion to wait to address the charter until after Jan. 1. He said he felt this was one of the important duties of the council and needed to be done correctly, while Councilman Keith Dalton said the process of overhauling the charter would take at least six months according to City Attorney Ed Crudup.

The vote was 3-3 with councilwomen Ocie Franklin, Janet Goodman and Hawnethia Williams opposing. Mayor Carter did not support the motion so it failed.

Goodman then made a motion to form a committee and have it review the charter and then come back to the council in 30 days with a recommendation as how to proceed.

That caused another split vote, but this time Carter cast a tie-breaking vote to pass the motion. She said it made sense to get the ball rolling, while Smith said the introduction of new elected officials would interrupt the process.

The charter contains 84 different sections, including duties of the mayor and council, when borrowing money is allowed and the control of streets, among many other items. It can be viewed by visiting and clicking on the "City Ordinances" drop down tab underneath the "Government" tab.

In other city news, Police Chief Stacey Cotton informed the council that the Covington Housing Authority will hire off-duty police officers to provide additional security to the housing authority's property on Alcovy Road. The officers will patrol the area on foot and by car, work to inform residents of safety issues and monitor any people who have been banned from the property.

The police department used to have a precinct at the authority, Cotton said, but that was paid for through a housing grant which expired. There has been an increase in crime in the area in the past few years as police presence lessened. This time the housing authority will pay for the police presence.

Also, the council unanimously approved $20,000 worth of strategic planning to bring the entire city employee base up to speed on the strategic plan. City Manager Steve Horton said while employees understand their jobs, they don't always understand how the council's decisions affect their jobs.

The council and city management staff will continue to work on developing the plan, and any newly elected members will also be brought up to speed, under the contract, which runs from September through March 2012.