COVINGTON -- An intergovernmental agreement between the city and county on the organization of Main Street Covington has been a year and a half in the making, but it's not finalized yet.
The Covington City Council recently approved the agreement but commissioners tabled it due to concerns that the Main Street Board limits access to the Square Park, which is owned by the county.
Commissioner Mort Ewing asked that language be included in the agreement addressing that issue, saying he's heard complaints for the nearly 11 years he's been a commissioner.
"I just want to be sure all groups have equal access to the park that is owned by the Board of Commissioners and the people of Newton County," he said.
Chairman Kathy Morgan said if the county takes over supervision of events on the Square Park an additional employee would need to be hired. She said there is a permitting process in order to host events there, but added she doesn't believe the Main Street Board limits access.
"I beg to differ, they limit access. That's why I'm bringing it up during this discussion," Ewing responded, adding that he has no problem with the Main Street Board supervising the process so long as it is fair.
Commissioner Tim Fleming, who is a member of a committee that met earlier in the year regarding the Main Street agreement, said he would reconvene that group to address Ewing's concern.
"That is the property of Newton County and should never be limited to any citizen of Newton County or any group no matter who they are," Fleming said.
The agreement specifies that the Main Street director is entirely an employee of the city and reports to the city manager, but the salary is split equally between the city and county. Either entity may choose to spend additional money on the Main Street program without obligating the other party to contribute.
The city will have to vote again if the agreement is revised. City officials tabled a second agreement, a contract for service between the city and Main Street. Council members received the contract just prior to the council meeting and said they wanted more time to review it.
Both the county and city approved an agreement that maintains the Keep Covington Newton Beautiful director as an employee of the county. The director is also the county's designated water resource officer and the position will be funded at 50 percent through the water fund, 25 percent by the county and 25 percent by the city.
City officials originally proposed taking over the Main Street program, with the county assuming full responsibility for KCNB. But county officials didn't agree. Morgan said the county's large footprint downtown means it should still be part of Main Street.
The City Council reached an informal consensus last year to increase funding to Main Street but changed those plans when the county, facing a budget shortfall, did not agree to pay half the additional expenses, prompting the decision to get a formal agreement in place regarding funding and structure of the program. There has not been a signed intergovernmental agreement regarding Main Street, though an informal agreement has been in place since 1987.