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Covington to lock up cemeteries daily ‘from dusk til dawn’ to increase security
Two-week notice will likely be provided to public before instituting measure, city manager says
Covington City Council
Planning and Zoning Manager Marc Beechuk (center) presents a special-use permit application proposal to the Covington City Council on Monday, June 7, 2021. (Vimeo | City of Covington)

COVINGTON, Ga. — To better secure area cemeteries, city leaders are resorting back to simply locking them up.

The Covington City Council voted unanimously Monday night to reinstate the city’s former protocol and lock its cemeteries’ gates daily from dusk til dawn.

Mayor Steve Horton said the decision was to further protect gravesites and markers from being defaced.

“I do recall various incidents of vandalism of gravesites/markers in the past,” Horton told The Covington News. “Though I do not recall when the city stopped locking the cemeteries, nor why they stopped, I do recall that, for some number of years, the police department did lock the cemeteries at dark and open them up at first light. 

“As a [former] patrol officer, myself, I recall locking and unlocking the cemeteries,” the mayor said.

Cemeteries affected by the rule change include Southview Cemetery, located Conyers Street, and Westview Cemetery, located off West Street, as they are the only cemeteries formally maintained by the city.

"We did not have any large scale problems like gravesites being tampered with," City Manager Scott Andrews said. "However, we did find some mysterious candles and eerie items that made loved ones of the grave site that they were found near worry a bit. 

"Out of an abundance of caution we decided to simply start locking the gates again during dark hours."

Cemeteries would be locked by city police each day, as they were before, Horton said, and prior to closing the gates, officers would search the cemeteries to make sure no one gets locked in.

Andrews said the public would likely be given a two-week notice before the new measure is instituted.

In other business, the council:

• Elected to offer Juneteenth celebration/parade organizers the city’s nonprofit rate to utilize Legion Field rather than waiving fees.

• Approved a license to sell alcoholic beverages for on- premises consumption only for Blockers Soul Food, located at 6129 Hwy. 278 NW.

• Voted 4-2 to deny a special-use permit application to allow an unnamed auto & truck repair facility to be located at 9126 A Industrial Blvd. (Councilman Kenneth Morgan and Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams opposed.)

• Voted 4-3 to approve a special-use permit  to allow an automotive parts and accessories store to be located at 6166 Washington St. Horton voted in favor of approval to break a 3-3 split. (Councilman Don Floyd, Morgan and Williams opposed.)

• Voted 5-1 (Morgan opposed) to table a vote to approve an updated Urban Redevelopment Plan for the city to July 6. After discussion of the proposed plan, council members urged city staff involved with producing the plan to schedule a work session and/or special meeting to go over the plan in-depth and tackle various issues found within the plan.

• Reappointed Billy Fortson, owner of Ginn Motors, to the 278 CID.

• Approved a temporary and permanent sewer construction easements for Washington Street subdivision.

• Approved a bid from IPR Southeast in the amount of $133,791 to complete a pipe lining project along Ashley Drive.

• Appointed Joel Smith as voting delegate for the 2021 MEAG Power Annual Election and appointed Andrews as an alternate.

• Appointed Joel Smith as voting delegate for the ECG election process and appointed Andrews as an alternate.

• Entered into an executive session “for the purpose of discussing land acquisition.”