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Covington adopts strategic plan

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- City of Covington officials recently approved a strategic plan three years in the making.

The plan outlines goals for the city over the next three years, and city staff and officials will use it as a reference to determine budgeting priorities. The entire plan will soon be available for public inspection on the city's website at www.cityofcovington.org and at City Hall.

A few highlights that were mentioned at a recent weekend strategic planning session include the creation of a downtown master plan. A plan was last done in 2000 by famed architect and urban planner Andres Duany but given that it's a decade old, it's time for an update, Planning Director Randy Vinson said.

The downtown master plan would identify opportunities for development or redevelopment "needed to maintain and enhance a vibrant and attractive downtown and influence positive economic development activities," according to the strategic plan.

Also included under the economic development category is contracting with an arm of Georgia Tech that focuses on economic development to retain existing industries and attract new industries and retail businesses. The city would retain its contract with the Chamber of Commerce as well, but this would expand on the Chamber's efforts, City Manager Steve Horton said. Another goal is to offer incentives, amenities, opportunity zones or special districts for economic development of commercial/retail businesses.

Under the strategy "working toward a safer community" goals include participating in community outreach programs; identifying improvements to infrastructure or code enforcement projects such as street lighting; conducting surveys with residents, customers, businesses and industries to evaluate needs and concerns; demolishing and redeveloping substandard housing.

The council agreed to an annual budget of $100,000 for demolition of substandard housing. Currently, there are 23 structures on the court docket that could be demolished, at a cost of about $5,800 each, Vinson said.

Police Chief Stacey Cotton said the city is already spending money to keep these structures, noting that, "We're constantly chasing our tails with reports of people going in and out of those houses and illegal activities going on. It costs money to respond to those calls."

The plan also calls for research of transportation alternatives, including public transportation.

"You're either going to spend money on something like that or spend money on building and improving more roads," Horton said.

Capital improvements making the plan include water line improvements on Elizabeth and Geiger streets, replacement of 25 miles of asbestos/cement water mains, installing medians along U.S. Highway 278, working on improvements to the Pace Street corridor, and numerous street and sidewalk projects.

The city is in the process of finding a new location for municipal court, currently housed at the police department, also an item on the strategic plan.

Horton said a modular building at the United Bank site, formerly the McIntosh Bank site, on U.S. Highway 278 is being considered. The plan is to move municipal court to another site by July 1, he said.

A heading titled "Improving Small Town Life" includes goals such as establishing incentives for employees to volunteer with local organizations and partnering with industrial and commercial business to provide neighborhood enhancements. For example, the city could partner with industries to build trails or provide amenities such as park benches.

Another idea is to make better use of Legion Fairgrounds by hosting events such as outdoor movies and concerts and bringing the fireworks celebration back to the city.

A feasibility study on construction of a new city hall is also on the plan. Council members said they'd be interested in finding out if the current facility could be expanded.