City of Covington eliminates hang tags

COVINGTON -- The city will no longer use hang tags to notify customers of pending utility cut-offs, following final approval of an amendment to an ordinance by the City Council Monday night.

Now, customers will be notified of past due payments as well as payment deadlines via their utility bills. Hang tags will only be used if there is no other way to contact a resident. The $15 hang tag fee will be eliminated but a $30 reconnection fee will remain in place for those who have utilities disconnected. The city will save the expense of an employee doing the work, Human Resources Director Ronnie Cowan previously told the council.

Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams said she's glad for the change.

"You can see those things a mile away. I know there are some that are negligent, that don't want to pay and don't plan to pay, but there are those that are having a hard time and it's kind of embarrassing for them," she said.

The amendment was approved 5 to 1 with Councilman Chris Smith opposed.

The council also approved the final reading to changes to the motorized carts ordinance.

Previously, the ordinance listed specific streets in the city where motorized carts are allowed. Now the ordinance states that carts cannot be operated on any streets for which the posted speed limit is over 35 mph or on any street on which operation is deemed by the mayor and council to be unsafe.

The 35 mph requirement has always been in place but a citizen pointed out that speed limits change from one speed to another on some of the listed streets and carts have been running in zones over 35 mph.

The ordinance also was amended to require that motorized carts cross streets only at intersections with other streets.

In other news, Mayor Kim Carter informed the council that City Manager Steve Horton approved an additional $2,000 allocation for an upcoming trip to Asia for Senior Vice President of Economic Development Roger Harrison. The city initially allocated $3,000 for the trip, but that was not enough to cover expenses. Horton is permitted to approve purchases of less than $20,000 without council approval. Harrison will embark in October to visit corporate leaders with SKC, Bridgestone and Nisshinbo, industries already located in Newton. He will travel with other economic development leaders. The trip is also being subsidized by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives and the Georgia Economic Developers Association.

In other economic development news, Horton announced the city has submitted electric rates for a confidential project known as Project Leviathan. No incentive rates were given, but Horton said the mystery company may request incentive pricing in the future.

Also, Horton said officials are considering a proposal to provide electricity to the proposed new high school on Crowell Road.

"I don't have a warm fuzzy feeling about it right now. It's one of those things that may take longer to get our money back than it should, but we are looking at it," he said.

Also, the council backed out of a previous decision to pay $110,000 for resurfacing associated with installation of medians on U.S. Highway 278 from Mill Street to Industrial Boulevard. The project is being funded through DOT, but the city agreed to fund additional resurfacing. However, the council learned the resurfacing was not necessary and reversed its decision.

Finally, the city will pay $20,000 for consultants with The Centre for Strategic Management in Conyers to help implement the strategic plan approved earlier this year throughout all city departments. The process will take from September through March.

"We think the value far outreaches the cost," Horton said.