Main Street Covington will soon be moving its offices into the Covington's planning and zoning building next to city hall, after the Covington City Council decided not to pay the organization's rent and utility costs at the 2104 Washington St. building owned by Rob Fowler III.
The move will be the first for Main Street in more than a decade, said Director Josephine Kelly. Main Street paid $450 to rent and have utilities for a single office in the building, which also housed The Center for Community Preservation and Planning and was adjacent to the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.
Though that rent would work out to $5,400 per year, Main Street had budgeted $8,400 in case there was a rent increase, Kelly said.
"During the city's budget work sessions, the Main Street office budget was discussed on more than one occasion and the issue of office space and rent elimination was discussed," City Manager Steve Horton said in an email. "Given that office space is available at the city of Covington, the line item for rent was removed from the city's proposed 2012-13 budget."
Horton said the city's budget, though it has not been affected to the same degree as the county's, "is pretty tight these days."
In addition to cutting out rent costs, the move to the city's planning and zoning building could also save in other building expenses, maintenance costs and janitorial services, which totaled $2,500, according to
Main Street's $123,530 proposed budget for next year.
The city of Covington and Newton County jointly fund Main Street, and Kelly said she was told the county would follow the city's lead in not paying rent and utility costs. Only the city gets a line-item budget, while the county simply reimburses the city for Main Street's services, which include marketing the downtown, serving existing merchants and recruiting new ones, making aesthetic improvements and planning downtown events.
"We're ready to get the job done wherever we are, and we respect the decision of the mayor and council to be conscious of budget line items," Kelly said. "We appreciate the fact there has been this long turn commitment to downtown development, and the most important part of Main Street is our program of work.
We're always open to change."
Main Street did discuss paying the rent out of its program fees, which come in large part from hotel/motel taxes, in order to maintain a downtown presence, but Kelly and the Main Street board of directors decided the money would be better spent on programming.