Covington: Unsafe tree rule passes

COVINGTON - The Covington City Council approved a new hazardous trees ordinance at its Sept. 15 meeting.

The ordinance gives the city authority to issue a written warning to property owners regarding trees that may be a hazard to city utilities or streets.

If the property owner does not correct the problem within 15 days of the written citation, the city can take the property owner to Municipal Court for violation of the nuisance ordinance.

"We've always had issues where trees are invading utilities," said City Manager Steve Horton, adding that in the past, the city might have issued a verbal warning to the property owner, but a written warning will carry more weight.

The city will retain the right to remove any tree that presents a clear and immediate risk to public safety.

In other news, the city will pay $13,845 for a study to determine the appropriate height for a rotating beacon at the Covington Municipal Airport.

Pilots have complained they can't see the approach to the airport from the north due to tall pine trees. Engineers with PBS&J will use a crane to hold up a beacon at different heights for pilots to assess visibility.

The existing beacon height is 60 feet. The Airport Advisory Committee has suggested raising the beacon at least by 10 feet, in order to also reduce impacts of light emissions on neighboring residents.

In other news, the city will pay $18,942.93 to upgrade a waterline on the Covington Bypass. Maddox Development had planned to install an 8-inch waterline to serve several new businesses along the bypass. Due to anticipated growth along that corridor, the city council agreed to pay the difference to upgrade the line to 12 inches.

Finally, the council has declined a request by the Covington Housing Authority to waive a fire line tap fee for the new homeless shelter at Turner Lake Circle. The tap is necessary to provide adequate water for the sprinkler systems being installed at the shelter.

Housing Authority attorney Jim Alexander requested the waiver "in light of the fact that this project is being funded primarily by the City itself through the generous grant they provided the Authority."

The city donated $1.08 million to the project, to purchase the property and pay for the cost of installing the sprinkler system and showers in the shelter.

In a work session prior to the council's regular meeting on Sept. 15, Councilman Mike Whatley said he was opposed to donating any more money to the project.

"I say we've given them enough as it is," Whatley said.

The council voted 5 to 1 to deny the waiver, with Councilwoman Janet Goodman opposing the motion.

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