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Rodent ordinance approved by Covington council

COVINGTON -- Mayor Ronnie Johnston cast the tie-breaking vote Monday night to approve an ordinance to allow residents to use firearms to kill rodents.

With two members absent, the council was split 2 to 2 on the issue. Councilmen Chris Smith and Keith Dalton were in favor and Councilwomen Hawnethia Williams and Ocie Franklin were opposed. Johnston broke the tie in favor of the ordinance, his first tie-breaking vote since taking office in January

The ordinance allows the use of .410 gauge shotguns with the number six or smaller shot shells or .22 caliber rifles or pistols loaded with "rat" or "scatter" shot cartridges to eliminate "various mammals of the order Rodentia, including but not limited to rats, mice, squirrels, chipmunks, muskrats and beaver."

The ordinance requires that anyone wishing to use a firearm to eliminate rodents get a firearm discharge permit from the Covington Police Department, and only be allowed to shoot squirrels during hunting season defined by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Applicants for the license must have proof that they have a valid hunting license. Firearms can only be discharged on property owned by the person with the permit or other private property only with permission of the property owner.

In other news, at the request of Clara Lett, director of Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter, the city will notify customers whose utilities are cut off that they can find a temporary place to cool off at the shelter, located on Turner Lake Circle.

Lett said she would open the shelter "for a cooling area so people can come in and be refreshed and get out of the heat."

City Manager Steve Horton said city staff can inform customers of the offer, which will also be posted on the local PEG channel and at City Hall. He noted that in extreme temperature conditions the city does not cut off utilities, but said he did not have the exact temperature at which cutoffs desist.

Councilman Smith said he heard from a resident who had utilities cut off last week. The resident rents from a landlord who is supposed to pay utilities and did not realize the bill had not been paid. Smith said situations like that are why he opposed eliminating notification of customers via hang tag, and asked that the council consider reinstating that.

"If we still had the hang tag program, this would not have happened," he said.