COVINGTON -- Mayor Ronnie Johnston successfully petitioned the Covington City Council Monday for funding for an outside consultant to come in and evaluate Main Street Covington.
"The overall goal is I want to bring somebody in to reevaluate and really look at Main Street -- its function and what it's doing good and what it could do better," Johnston said, adding that the focus of the evaluation will be on the economic development of downtown and the promotion of the downtown district.
"I wanted to bring a fresh perspective ... hopefully with the intent of getting information to improve the program," Johnston said. "Other businesses from time to time have a consultant look at their processes. It's nothing personal. I'm not going after somebody. I'm looking at the efficiency of the entire program."
Johnston said he attends Main Street board meetings as the city of Covington's representative and has been pushing for about three months to bring in a consultant to conduct an evaluation. Now that the city has agreed to fund the entire cost of the evaluation, at up to $4,500, he's hopeful the board will be agreeable. Main Street is jointly funded by the city and county and the hotel/motel tax.
"I'm proud of the city for stepping out and saying, 'Hey, we can do this,'" he said.
Johnston said he wants to leverage the positive aspects of downtown, including promoting that "The Vampire Diaries" television series is filmed there. He also wants to attract more high-end restaurants. With the possibility of more residents and the halo effect of landing Baxter International, "We've got a great opportunity to bring some folks in, and it all comes down to one big issue for me: improving the income per house ratio," he said. "This is one piece of the puzzle."
He added that the downtown could be a great entertainment district.
"We've got a great foundation down there and we're really trying to figure out a way to take it to a whole (new) level," he said.
He also said he'd like to find out how Main Street can better support downtown merchants.
Johnston said he wants full support of the Main Street board and their assistance in selecting the consultant.