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Councilman upset over unsafe golf cart usage
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Councilman Mike Whatley believes people are abusing the city’s golf cart ordinance, and he’s asking the Covington Police Department to crack down on the problems.

Whatley’s concern stems from an incident in his neighborhood, Covington Plantation in between Dearing Street and the Covington Bypass Road, where two underage girls were critically injured while driving a golf cart.

Whatley said the girls were driving too fast and had no supervision, and he said they were lucky to survive. Whatley said Tuesday he’s asked police to increase patrols and enforcement of golf cart laws in neighborhoods that have a lot of golf cart usage.

“(Councilman Keith) Dalton and I worked diligently to get the Covington golf cart ordinance passed, but like everything else you give people an inch and they take a mile,” Whatley told his fellow Covington City Council members Monday. “I don’t want to lose that privilege (to drive golf carts). and it’s not a right, it’s a privilege.”

Golf carts can only legally be driven on city streets by people who possess a valid driver’s license or instruction permit, according to the city law, but Whatley said he’s seen children as young as 6 driving carts.

Councilman Chris Smith said he saw a man driving down U.S. Highway 278 in a golf cart, which is illegal. Golf carts can only be driven on streets with a speed of 35 mph or lower.

Health insurance costs stable
The city of Covington renewed its health insurance policy this year and got its exact same plan at the exact same price.

The Covington City Council voted 5-0 to renew its $4.71 million health insurance plan with CIGNA for its 310 employees.

City council members expressed surprise at the lack of an increase, as health insurance costs have increased steadily in the past several years.

“I know as a small business owner that didn’t happen for me,” Councilman Chris Smith said.

The city’s contracted insurance agent Gary Massey called the renewal quote “highly favorable.”

One of the keys for the city is that its renewal allows the city to keep its “grandfather status,” which reduces the health insurance plan changes an organization can make to its plan but also exempts it from having to follow all of the new mandated provisions under the Affordable Care Act.

No parking on Ramsey Drive
The Covington City Council approved a request from a Ramsey Drive resident to prohibit all on-street parking.
Because the street is so narrow and is a dead-end street, city officials recommended prohibiting parking on both sides of the street.

Ramsey Drive is the road that runs next to the Covington Branch Library off Floyd Street and next to the new multi-use trail that runs from the library to Eastside High School.

When asked about people wanting to use the trail, Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon said there is plenty of parking at the library. There is a new entrance to Chimney Park, the park behind the library, of the parking lot, which also connects to the trail.

Hunter St. will become 2-way street
Hunter Street, which runs between Stallings and Usher streets and runs next to both the Charter Communications office and the Newton County Judicial Center, will once again become a two-way street when the expansion of the judicial center is completed at a later date.

The Council approved the change, though it specified that the city would be responsible for all costs associated with the project, which will include creating a raised pedestrian crosswalk across the street that will lead into the new main entrance of the revised judicial center.

The judicial center expansion is still in the design phase, but the project will eventually be paid for using $7 million of 2011 SPLOST money.

The changes would also add four handicap parking spaces along Hunter Street, architect Rowland Davidson told the Council previously.

CNG-powered garbage truck
The Council approved purchasing a compressed natural gas (CNG) powered garbage truck for $172,271 from Peach State Freightliner.

The city now has a CNG-fueling station, located off City Pond Road near the Alcovy Road intersection, and given the cost for CNG is $1.95 per gasoline gallon equivalent, the truck is expected to save significant money in fuel over its life, even taking into account the increased price for CNG-powered vehicles.