Covington nixes public transit grant

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The Covington City Council recently decided not to pursue a state grant that would partially fund two public transportation programs, but agreed to examine other options in the future.

The city's grant writer, Randy Conner, informed the council that grants administered through the Atlanta Regional Commission could be used to provide transportation for commuters, the disabled and seniors.

The Job Access and Reverse Commute Program would provide transportation to residents who commute to Atlanta for their jobs. Residents could be transported from Newton County to the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority's park and ride location at Church in the Now in Conyers.

The New Freedom Program would provide low-cost transportation to disabled residents ages 19 to 59 and seniors age 60 and older to and from doctor appointments, the drugstore and grocery store. This service was previously offered by Newton County Senior Services but was discontinued due to budget cuts, Conner said. The city could partner with Senior Services, which already has the management structure in place, he said.

The same vehicles could be used for both programs to save money, Conner said. The cost to the city would be roughly $76,000 annually per program, not counting any money that might be saved by consolidating the two programs. That does not include fuel and maintenance of vehicles and other miscellaneous costs. Two vehicles and two to three staff members would be required.

"This is something that would never be self-supporting. It would always require funds from the city," Conner said.

Councilwoman Janet Goodman made the motion to move forward with the grant application, saying residents have been requesting public transportation for 15 years. Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams seconded the motion, but abstained when it came time to vote after hearing that if the city is approved, but opts to turn down the grant, there could be a stigma and it might not be considered for funds in the future. Since an abstention is considered a vote in favor, the motion failed 4 to 2.

The council agreed with City Manager Steve Horton's recommendation to consider in the future a residential bus or trolley line running inside city limits.

"I think we need to study this a little bit more before we say yes," said Councilwoman Ocie Franklin.