Hotel/motel tax increase starts April 1

COVINGTON — The Covington City Council approved Monday night an ordinance increasing the hotel/motel tax from 5 to 8 percent.

The increase will go into effect April 1, and all hotel/motel owners and operators will be notified by the city, City Manager Steve Horton said.

The Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution to increase the tax in 2009, but the city has not pursued collections until now.

The Chamber of Commerce receives 60 percent of the hotel/motel tax, and Main Street Covington receives 40 percent. Half the revenue from the increase will go to tourism and the other half to predetermined projects selected by the council.

The council agreed the proposed downtown civic center/hotel is a top priority, and no funds will be spent on any other project for at least two years.

2050 Build Out Plan

The council approved a resolution to support the 2050 Build Out Plan and the principles and strategies of the Newton County Leadership Collaborative.

Members of the collaborative have been attending meetings of local government bodies during the last few weeks to garner support for the plan, which calls for the county and its agencies to prepare for the future by protecting clean water, creating communities and corridors and coordinating public investments in comprehensive and economic development and land conservation.

The plan calls for the placement of town centers in the Covington, Almon, Salem, Oak Hill and Hub Junction communities; a proposed Bear Creek Reservoir and an airport business park; a conservation zone in the eastern part of the county that contains large agricultural parcels and a watershed for 5 percent of the population; compact community zones throughout the western and central part of the county for 80 percent of the population; and rural zones in Oxford and along the Yellow River with 15 percent of the population with large lot septic tank development and agriculture.

The strategies are based on the prediction that 400,000 people are expected to be living in Newton County by 2050, compared to the 100,000 residents who live in the county now. By developing a plan, the county and its agencies could save 30 to 40 percent of the estimated $5 billion in infrastructure expenditures for the county, according to collaborative members.

So far, Covington, Oxford and Porterdale have approved the resolution. County commissioners heard the presentation Tuesday night but did not take action.

New Rec Commission member

Mayor Kim Carter appointed Hugh Burnett as the city's representative to the Newton County Recreation Commission.

Burnett is a lifetime Newton County resident who hit his first home run at Baker's Field and played basketball at Conyers Street Gym for the Recreation Commission.

"I enjoy kids and I feel like the Recreation Department keeps them physically fit and keeps them from doing other things they shouldn't be doing. It also provides team work and building relationships with other people," he said.

Burnett will replace former City Councilman John Howard, who retired from the council at the end of 2009.

"John Howard was my coach in little league when I hit that home run in Baker's Field," he said.

Recreation Commission members have successfully petitioned the Board of Commissioners to make Howard an emeritus member.

"Any time the Recreation Commission has had any event we can count on John Howard to be there," Recreation Commission Chairman Johnny Presley told county commissioners Tuesday night.

"We want to officially keep him active in this," he added

"I think Mr. Presley is 100 percent right and we should consider Mr. Howard being an emeritus member of the recreation board. He has served with a lot of dignity," said Commissioner J.C. Henderson, who is the county's liaison on the commission.

The board unanimously agreed.

Staff Reporter Michelle Floyd contributed to this story.