Street closures and detours for downtown events have cost the city nearly $19,000 since September, according to a report from Transportation Project Manager Billy Skinner.
The report, requested by Councilman Chris Smith and presented at the city council meeting on Aug. 2, includes costs from the street, fire and police departments. Along with setting up detours and closing streets, the costs also include the departments working the events and breaking it down afterwards.
However, the report excludes "department heads meeting organizers prior to the events and transportation permitting to work out details." These meetings can last up to three hours and permits up to eight hours.
In an attempt to reduce some of these costs, the council will look into deferring the costs incurred from the Georgia Gran Prix bicycle race to the Chamber of Commerce or Main Street Covington, since the event was advertised as a tourist attraction. Both organizations received tax revenues from hotels and motels during the race.
The council decided street closing notices will be given two weeks ahead of time instead of one week. According to Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams, some downtown business owners complained the one-week notice was not enough time for them to prepare, as overwhelmed residents and merchants were hit back-to-back with the filming of "The Vampire Diaries" and the Gran Prix.
City Manager Steve Horton said they had time to give two-week notice for the Gran Prix, and he took the blame for it not happening. Approval for the shooting of Diaries did not arrive until the week of filming, so timing was not in their control, Horton said.
Horton also said two-week notices for closures will be given in the future. In addition, business owners impacted by the closures will be invited to council meetings in the future to provide feedback.