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LETTER: Reader says community appearance demands action
Letters - OPINION

Dear Editor:

A visitor to Covington who approached the town square via I-20 exit 90, Turner Lake Road and the west end of Clark Street would have to be forgiven for asking: Have we entered a third world country? 

Hyperbole? Maybe so, but some days not so much.

The volume of trash and debris allowed to accumulate and remain for long stretches of time along many city streets and county roads gives the impression of a citizenry and local government that places too little value on the quality of life in the community. Meanwhile, we are being asked through local government surveys if we want an expanded public transportation infrastructure in the community. Would we prefer a skate park to a splash pool? How about a brewery vs. a new gymnasium and city center? Many interesting and positive choices are being dangled before us.

My suggestion: Let’s take care of the low hanging fruit first. Develop and execute a plan for keeping our streets, sidewalks and rights-of-way clean before we build new flashy, vote-getting amenities! How can we have confidence that these new community assets will be managed well when we don’t even do a mediocre job of keeping the community clean?

I have the opportunity to travel in Georgia and other states and often remark that most communities seem to have a handle on their litter problems. There is a stark contrast between most communities I visit and the Covington-Newton County area. 

Businesses – especially big box stores and shopping centers – should routinely collect and dispose of trash on their property, especially parking lots.

Building contractors should provide and enforce the use of trash receptacles on their sites which would reduce litter that escapes from truck beds used for trash disposal.

The fines for littering should be doubled, enforced and frequently advertised. Recognize law enforcement for citing code violations.

We should plug into the state transportation department’s new anti-litter program opportunities for businesses, organizations and individuals.

Some will blame the homeless community, a serious matter in Covington. If that’s the case, solve the homelessness problem. Be intentional, make it a priority — get it done. 

Why not assemble a coalition of city and county governments, Keep Covington Clean and Beautiful, the chamber of commerce, realtor groups, individuals, etc. — all of whom have a vested interest in an attractive community — to put ideas forward for tackling the litter and trash issues?

We are likely past the time when a sense of individual responsibility and community pride are going to change things. We need commitment from our elected officials, law enforcement, businesses and citizens to address the matter, not just on a one-time basis, but routinely. 

Once that is done, a skate park might be nice.

Steve McWilliams