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Main Street board approves of evaluation

COVINGTON — The chairman of the Main Street Board of Directors said the board is supportive of Mayor Ronnie Johnston’s proposal to hire an outside consultant to review the organization’s operations and make recommendations on improving economic development downtown.

“We’ve had discussions about it with the board and I think we agreed that stepping back and taking a hard look at this is the right thing to do,” Chairman Dan Walden told the City Council Monday night.

“I can assure you the board is behind Mayor Johnston’s plan and your plan to take a close look at economic development downtown and what we can do together to keep that moving,” he added.

Two weeks ago, the council approved an expenditure of up to $4,500 to hire an outside consultant to evaluate the Main Street program.

Walden also announced that the Main Street Board has approved spending up to $35,000 to upgrade Christmas decorations for downtown. Johnston said he was planning to ask the council to provide additional funding for the decorations, but the item was removed from the agenda given the gesture from Main Street.

The council was also presented with a quarterly report for July through September and an annual report for 2011-2012.

According to the quarterly report, there were 13,142 attendees at downtown events from July through September, and 14 special events held downtown.

The report also states short-term and long-term priorities for Main Street. The top priority for the next two years is to “develop a plan for a vibrant downtown with consultants to engage downtown businesses and to actively recruit businesses that create a sustainable business mix for the downtown district. Other priorities are to open public restrooms downtown; improve merchant and public involvement with the downtown district; develop a first-class entertainment district; and offer after hours shopping and entertainment.

Priorities for the next five years include opening a market with groceries and fresh food; having an event/civic center; beautification of all streets leading to the Square, including signage on U.S. Hwy. 278; and building improvements.

Three businesses have changed ownership in the last 10 months; one business has expanded; two others are relocating to larger properties, according to the report. There is also one new project under development and another is developing a business plan. There are five available properties listed on the Downtown Covington website and three additional properties for lease or sale.

According to the annual report, revenues for Main Street totaled $96,168.03, with the majority — more than $85,000 — from the hotel/motel tax. Expenses totaled $124,880, leaving a negative net income of $28,712.07.

During this past fiscal year, Main Street developed a temporary vending permit for special events; finalized the intergovernmental agreement with the city and county; and formed the Dining and Food Group as a subcommittee to the Downtown Business Council. Main Street also received the state award for Excellence in Downtown Development from the Department of Community Affairs and the Georgia Downtown Association.

Projects Main Street completed or assisted with downtown include replacement of the tress and installation of new tree wells around the perimeter of the Square; installation of seven bike racks; repainting of benches; purchasing the first Downtown Covington Notice Board to be installed on the north wall facing Square Perk Cafe; purchasing Patriotic and Fall Fest banners.

Finally, the Main Street office has relocated to the city’s Planning and Zoning building at 2116 Stalling St.