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City permits golf carts on the Square

COVINGTON - Golf carts are now allowed on state routes within the city of Covington where speed limits are less than 35 mph, following approval by the City Council on Monday night.

Previously, the city's golf cart ordinance stated that carts are totally prohibited on state routes or other streets with speed limits less than 35 mph and can only cross state routes at DOT-designated crossings. That meant the carts weren't allowed on the Square in downtown Covington.

However, the city recently got word from the Georgia Department of Transportation that the carts can be driven on state routes if the speed limit is less than 35 mph and may cross any state route regardless of the speed limit.

The ordinance amendment approved Monday night opens Church Street S.E., Monticello Street S.W., Emory Street, Clark Street N.W. and Hazelbrand Road beginning 200 yards north of U.S. Highway 278 up to golf cart traffic.

That means golf carts can now travel to the Square, where community events are often held.

Police Chief Stacey Cotton said he doesn't foresee allowing the carts on state routes creating a big safety hazard.

"It's the same safety issue for bicyclists, and they have the right to cross state routes," he said.

Golf carts are permitted under state law and regulated by local ordinance, Cotton said.

"In absence of our ordinance, people can ride golf carts. The only thing our ordinance allows us to do is put more regulations on them. The safety issue is not the city of Covington's but for the driver of the vehicle," he said.

About 18 permits have been issued by the Covington Police Department since the ordinance was enacted in November 2008.

The CPD inspects all golf carts to make sure they are safe to drive.

Roadworthy golf carts should be equipped with windshields, turn signals, brakes, a horn, headlights, brake lights, safe tires and, if gas-powered, an exhaust system.

Once the inspection is completed, the owner will receive a sticker to place on the golf cart.

Permits cost $15 and are effective for five years.

For more information, or questions regarding streets where golf carts are allowed, call the CPD at 770-786-7605 or visit www.covingtonpolice.com, click on permits and then golf cart permits.

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