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Covington to donate $10,000 to library

Covington-The city of Covington will donate $10,000 to the Covington branch of the Newton County Library to help with a new HVAC unit.

The city council voted 3-2, with Michael Whatley and Chris Smith opposing the motion and Keith Dalton absence from Monday’s meeting. Hawnethia Williams, Ocie Franklin and Janet Goodman voted to approve Goodman’s motion of donating up to $10,000, which Franklin seconded.

Mayor Ronnie Johnston asked that a discussion to help contribute funds to the library be added to the agenda after he had a meeting with Dr. Steve Whatley and Newton County Chairman Keith Ellis.

“I clarified that the city of Covington does not feel it is our area of responsibility to contribute from our general fund,” Johnston said.

Covington typically budgets around $15,000 to contribute to the library from its general fund. The library had come before both the council and the board of commissioners for help with funding a new HVAC system.

Johnston suggested to Ellis and Dr. Whatley that the city, while it probably wouldn’t contribute a large sum of money, could donate funds like it did for the recently opened Miracle Field.

After consulting with its own electric company, the city of Covington came up with a number to possibly donate toward the expanded electric equipment needed to fund the new HVAC system. City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said the breakdown would be approximately $5,000 for the transformer, $2,000 for labor and an additional $1,200 to $1,500 for additional supplies.

Goodman told the council she was not in favor of contributing money from the general fund, but when she found out the amount of money the city would possibly donate, was in favor of that.

“The library does not discriminate,” Goodman said. “It is not like we are donating to something only a certain age can use. Everybody can use the library.”

Smith said he was not in favor of the motion to donate money because it would be setting a precedent for other county facilities to come to the city seeking additional funds.

“My constituency is very much against this, and I am too,” Smith said. “It is double taxation for people who use county facilities. I feel if we open this can of worms, where does it stop? I don’t see how we can continue to do this. I am totally against this.”

Franklin replied by pointing out that the city already donated money to another project, in the Miracle Field.

“I feel like the reason I would want to do this is for our children, our grandchildren and some of us use this library. It’s important.

Williams said as an educator she felt helping to keep the library functioning was important.

“I don’t think we want it to be said that we rejected the library,” Williams said. “It behooves us to think of those children who cannot buy books; families who are not fortunate enough to buy books.”