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County, city honored by governor

COVINGTON - The city of Covington and Newton County were recently recognized by Gov. Sonny Perdue for participation in the Department of Community Affairs Signature Community Program.

Representatives from the city and county met with the governor at the State Capitol on July 22 to receive a plaque commemorating the 2005 designation as a Signature Community and celebrate completion of the two-year program.

Covington and Newton County were one of five communities selected for the inaugural program, which commenced in January 2006. Benefits included receipt of a $50,000 grant used to hire a consultant to help implement the Living Centers Initiative study to improve a 4-mile corridor of U.S. Highway 278. Access to more funds from the Georgia Department of Transportation's Local Assistance Road Program allowed the city and county to complete several road projects.

"It was a nice award to get. I wish a lot more people would give us that kind of award," said District 5 Commissioner Monty Laster, who attended the event in Atlanta.

"It says a great deal about the community for us to be moving forward with those things we need to do to make life better," said City Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams, who also attended. "We always try to put the community first."

For the inaugural program, 60 communities were evaluated on nine criteria, including comprehensive planning, downtown revitalization, economic development, environmental management, infrastructure development, leadership programs, quality growth, safe and affordable housing and service and volunteerism.

Benefits of the program included receipt of a grant to implement a community improvement strategy, help identifying other financial resources and technical assistance in achieving key initiatives.

A total of 17 communities have been designated a Signature Community since 2005.

"The city of Covington, Newton County and other communities recognized today responded to a call for a higher level of performance, a higher quality of life for its citizens," said DCA Commissioner Mike Beatty in a prepared statement. "Each community established goals and worked with private and public partners to implement numerous community building projects. It is an honor to spend time with citizens from these dynamic Georgia communities. Each member community represented here has earned dual designations as a Signature Community Program and as a role model."

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.