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Covington officially recognizes 911 as first responders
Joins national movement to 'properly' classify tele-communicators' public safety role
Covington-Newton County 911
Pictured are members of the Covington-Newton County 911 team, including 911 therapy dog Annie, Covington City Council members and members of city's administration staff. - photo by Courtesy of the city of Covington

COVINGTON, Ga. — Staff members of the Covington-Newton County 911 Center were officially recognized as first responders by the city.

During the Covington City Council’s Oct. 4 meeting, council members unanimously approved a resolution emotionally read by Mayor Steve Horton to recognize Covington-Newton County 911 tele-communicators “as first responders and part of the critical infrastructure of the public safety framework.”

“This is something that all of us in the room, and most of us, often think of 911 as public safety, but nationwide it’s not always viewed that way,” City Manager Scott Andrews said before Horton recited the resolution. “So there’s a growing movement to make this official, and that’s actually what we’re doing here tonight.

“We’re so grateful for you,” Andrews said to 911 staff members in attendance.

Covington-Newton 911 Director Trudy Henry was grateful to the city council for being among the first to pass such a resolution in the state of Georgia.

“They have difficult jobs in that radio room,” Henry said. “Like Scott said, the movement nationwide is to have 911 recognized as first responders across the nation, and we feel like this is kind of the first step in getting us there. There aren’t many counties that have done it. I know the state is moving towards this as well, so we appreciate y’all taking the time and recognizing and doing this for us.”

In part, the resolution that was read into the minutes by Horton stated, “Not only are they first responders, but they are the ‘first’ first responders, and those selfless individuals make life-saving, split second decisions on a daily basis in order to provide proper response to emergencies.

“[Tele-communicators] provide care and compassion to our citizens in their most horrific moments, and many of these calls leave a traumatic affect on the tele-communicator.”

Horton said Covington-Newton County 911 Center’s tele-communicators go through an extensive background check, including a suitability screening and polygraph; must attend a five-week state training academy; and attend a 13-16 week interdepartmental training, which can total 21 weeks of training. Tele-communicators for Covington-Newton County 911 are also required to complete 36 hours of continuing education, which exceeds a state mandate of eight hours.

“If I sounded emotional, I am,” Horton said after reading the proclamation. “I’ve depended on y’all my own self out there when I was on the road out there. And nobody can tell you what that means, so I’m going to stand up and applaud you.”

In other business, the council:

• Approved an alcohol sales license to Nagoya Japanese Steakhouse.

• Approved the first reading of an annexation ordinance concerning a 4.4-acre property on Eagle Drive for the city after holding a public hearing.

• Approved the initiation of a text amendment for adding temporary office trailers.

• Approved the purchase of tasers for the police department from Axon Enterprise, Inc. in the amount of $199,927.57.

• Approved the purchase of a Digiticket Software system for the police department from Motorola Solutions in the amount of $117,649.55.

• Approved a change order for the water main replacement project on Puckett Street. The change would increase the project cost by $145,965 to include the replacement of a sewer main before paving begins.

• Approved the appointment of Sandi Spears to the Covington Redevelopment Authority and the Covington Downtown Development Authority. Spears replaces Randy Conner and Teto Stone, respectively. Conner and Stone were said to have resigned from their board positions.

• Approved an update to the city’s Opportunity Zone Map as recommended by the state, as part of the city’s urban redevelopment plan.

• Approved a Project Framework Agreement (PFA) detailing Preliminary Engineering commitments for Phase 1 of the Hwy 278 CID.

• Approved designating MEAG as its agent to nominate and acquire any combination of resources to optimize their Supplemental Power Supply Requirements.

• Approved a letter of support backing a joint application to be made with the Newton County Water Resources Division for a EDA Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant.