The Covington News - - Front page -

The CRA pur­chased 38 prop­er­ties in Walker’s Bend in De­cem­ber, most of which were fore­closed.

City Plan­ning Di­rec­tor Randy Vin­son pre­vi­ously said the goal was to part­ner with a pri­vate devel­op­ment firm to ren­o­vate cur­rent hous­ing and build new af­ford­able hous­ing.

How­ever, one road­block was the fact an­other pri­vate devel­op­ment firm, Rialto Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, had pur­chased 31 lots pri­mar­ily near the en­trance of the neigh­bor­hood. Vin­son had been at­tempt­ing to ne­go­ti­ate for the CRA to pur­chase Rialto’s lots or trade lots within Walker’s Bend.

How­ever, Carter said Tues­day that the CRA had re­cently put Rialto in touch with Af­ford­able Eq­uity Part­ners, a firm the city has worked with in the past. She said it’s pos­si­ble the two groups may be able to work out a deal, which could lead to AEP build­ing 30 sin­gle-fam­ily af­ford­able homes.

She said the CRA is also work­ing on a part­ner­ship with the Cov­ing­ton Hous­ing Author­ity to cre­ate a home­buyer coun­sel­ing ser­vice pro­gram to help train fam­i­lies on how to re­pair their credit and learn how to han­dle the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of own­ing a home.

The CRA is work­ing in Walker’s Bend, lo­cated off of Ga. High­way 81 be­fore Por­terdale, be­cause it saw the neigh­bor­hood as be­ing on the verge of be­com­ing a slum and of­fi­cials hoped to turn in around through con­cen­trated in­vest­ment, Vin­son said pre­vi­ously.

• In other city news, the city’s pub­lic works depart­ment re­ceived a re-ac­cred­i­ta­tion award by the Amer­i­can Pub­lic Works As­so­ci­a­tion, and is the only city in Ge­or­gia to be ac­cred­ited. The city has been ac­cred­ited since 2006.

Ac­cord­ing to a APWA, its ac­cred­i­ta­tion pro­gram rec­og­nizes pub­lic works agen­cies that meet or ex­ceed na­tional pub­lic works stan­dard in ar­eas such as wa­ter, solid waste man­age­ment, street and sewer re­pair and main­te­nance, en­gi­neer­ing, build­ing main­te­nance, storm wa­ter drainage, traf­fic safety, en­vi­ron­men­tal ser­vices and ve­hi­cle main­te­nance.

In ad­di­tion, the City of Cov­ing­ton is one of only three cities in the U.S. that have four na­tion­ally ac­cred­ited pro­grams, along with Plano, Texas, and Belle­vue, Wash., ac­cord- ing to our lo­cal po­lice ac­cred­i­ta­tion man­ager.

The emer­gency 911, fire, po­lice and pub­lic works de­part­ments are all na­tion­ally ac­cred­ited. City Man­ager Steve Hor­ton said the pub­lic works depart­ment is the largest in the city.

“ It says you’re will­ing to work at a higher level of ser­vice for your com­mu­nity to main­tain stan­dards about how you be­have and the process you do,” Hor­ton said. “I’m proud of the hard work of all of them.”

Pub­lic Works Di­rec­tor Billy Bouch­illon thanked all city per­son­nel fro help­ing his depart­ment reached these stan­dards. He said the APWA re­viewed more than 200 of the 533 stan­dards the depart­ment has to fol­low, and Cov­ing­ton was com­pli­ant on all of the stan­dards.

• As part of its early re­tire­ment pack­age, the city is adding the in­cen­tive of al­low­ing all 19 em­ploy­ees tak­ing the of­fer to be able to be paid out their ac­crued sick time. Nor­mally, only em­ploy­ees with more than 25 years of ser­vice would be el­i­gi­ble, but Per­son­nel Di­rec­tor Ron­nie Cowan sug­gested of­fer­ing the sick leave pay­out to the ad­di­tional nine em­ploy­ees, many of whom have just un­der 25 years of ser­vice.

He said the idea is to re­ward em­ploy­ees who have not used their sick time un­nec­es­sar­ily, as op­posed to pun­ish­ing them. This will also re­duce the temp­ta­tion for em­ploy­ees to slow down in their fi­nal months. He said this would cost the city any ad­di­tional money, be­cause this sick leave is al­ready bud­geted as part of the em­ployee’s an­nual salary.

This will also en­cour­age em­ploy­ees to leave ear­lier than they might have oth­er­wise, which will al­low Cowan to be­ing seek­ing and hir­ing nec­es­sary re­place­ment sooner. Most po­si­tions will not be re­hired, but four em­ploy­ees are re­tir­ing from the plan­ning depart­ment and some of them will have to be added back. Em­ploy­ees can earn a max­i­mum of 720 hours of sick leave.

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