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County board tells city Covington Square's park not included in special events
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The 114-year-old Confederate memorial statue is a centerpiece of the park in the middle of the Covington Square. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County commissioners Tuesday night railed against Covington’s plans for allowing open drinking of alcoholic beverages during special events before voting to ban them from the park in the center of the Covington Square.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday, Oct. 6, against amending an agreement with the city government to allow the county-owned park to be included in plans for future events allowing open alcohol beverage consumption in the historic downtown area.

District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards said he opposed adding to what he believed was a “chaotic” atmosphere already prevalent on weekends in the area, which includes retailers and restaurants.

He said he had traveled to the Square on some Friday nights and it was “absolute chaos” as motorists attempted to move through the area without hitting pedestrians.

“I can’t understand why I would want to add another element,” he said.

The board’s unanimous vote followed a request from the city for the agreement after Covington City Council approved a special event designed to help promote the area’s retail and dining establishments Oct. 17.

An intergovernmental agreement between the city and county allows Covington to control use of the county-owned park. However, county commissioners must approve the park’s inclusion in any public event that includes alcoholic beverages.

The Oct. 17 event is scheduled to include placement of big-screen TVs on some sidewalks showing college football games, and allow purchase of wristbands for use at some restaurants offering alcoholic beverages in clear, specially marked plastic cups.

The amendment the county commission considered Tuesday night stated that open container use would be limited to the "Covington Historic Downtown Entertainment District." 

The district is defined as the area within Usher, Elm, Conyers and Brown streets that includes the park. 

County attorney Megan Martin told commissioners the agreement also could allow open container beverage consumption during special events on holidays such as Fourth of July or St. Patrick’s Day.

Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration traditionally is one of the southeast Georgia city’s top annual tourist draws.

But District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson said he believed the area already had enough places for revelers to “drink and holler or whatever you want to do.”

District 2 Commissioner Demond Mason said he agreed with Edwards about traffic adding “additional chaos” during special events. 

He said he wanted to see the amendment apply only to a single event and include requirements for closing the area to motorized traffic.

Edwards said he had “unsolicited input” from some District 1 residents who were “absolutely clear” they did not want the county to allow open alcohol consumption in the area.

An organizer of the Oct. 17 event, Covington Community Development Director Trey Sanders, said, "While we are disappointed in the decision, we have a couple new ideas for the event that will make it even better..

"I am confident both the community and the merchants will still enjoy a day of local shopping and college football in our downtown area," Sanders said.