COVINGTON -- City Council officials discussed hiring a communications officer, turning American Legion fairgrounds into a destination spot and cleaning up exits off I-20 at their retreat held Tuesday at the Newton County College and Career Academy.
Council members and the mayor informally agreed to pursue all of those initiatives.
The communications officer would be responsible for marketing the city, and while a specific job description has not been drawn up, that could include everything from press releases to social media to citizen outreach.
For example, a video about Covington Municipal Airport produced and premiered at the Covington City Council meeting Monday night is a marketing tool that could be sent to every private jet owner in the state, said Mayor Ronnie Johnston. Also, it would be a prime opportunity to send out a press release to promote the city's airport, but the city currently doesn't have anyone on staff to handle that.
City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said it's currently up to department staff to handle promotion of city initiatives, but there is no one with marketing expertise.
Johnston noted that "The Vampire Diaries" Facebook page has more than one million fans and people are on there talking about Covington. "We should be leveraging that for our city," he said.
Johnston also said the city's website could stand to be more user friendly, potentially another function of a communications officer.
The council also agreed it wants to make better use of Legion fairgrounds, potentially using it for concerts and other events. The city has previously discussed this at strategic planning sessions and it will be in this year's budget at a cost of $100,000.
Upgrades could be funded through hotel/motel dollars, Knight said. The city has special projects identified to benefit from hotel/motel tax dollars, but could change that list to include the fairgrounds, Knight said.
Johnston said the city also has money from the sale of its cable TV service which could allow it to get the project going soon. Councilwoman Janet Goodman said she'd like to see free activities there, especially during the summer.
There is plenty of parking at Sharp Stadium, Councilman Chris Smith said. Knight cautioned the council to consider that the fairgrounds are in a residential area. Smith said an ordinance could dictate hours of operation.
Also council members agreed to spearhead beautification efforts along I-20 exits, specifically exit 90. Johnston said while the Department of Transportation may be responsible for some of that, if the city doesn't take the initiative, it won't get done. Johnston asked Knight to come up with a plan as far as maintenance and design. He said he would like the city to be responsible for mowing, trimming, blowing and picking up trash on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and doing landscaping.
"My goal would be to have people driving up there to have an 'aha' moment and go ,'Wow, so this is what I've heard about. This is Covington,'" he said.