Cross­ings cov­ered up

Rail­road cross­ings in city to be paved; stop signs re­moved

The Covington News - - Front page - By Gabriel Khouli gkhouli@cov­

Those pesky stop signs at rail­road cross­ings in Cov­ing­ton where the train no longer runs should be taken down within the next month or so.

First, the city of Cov­ing­ton will have to pave over the cross­ings. At Mon­day night’s coun­cil meet­ing, the Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil unan­i­mous- ly ap­proved sign­ing an agree­ment with the Cen­tral of Ge­or­gia Rail­road Com­pany, a sub­sidiary of Nor­folk South­ern, to pave the 23 cross­ings in the city lim­its and re­move any stop signs.

Once the tracks have been paved over, the city coun­cil will then vote to re­move any or all of the 23 stop signs lo­cated at cross­ings. Any stop signs that are re­moved will have to be re­placed with a “ Tracks Out of Ser­vice” sign. Mayor Kim Carter said Mon­day that some stop signs might not be re­moved if they are needed for traf­fic calm­ing. City Man­ager Steve Hor­ton said he ex­pected all of the work to be com­pleted within 30 days.

Un­der the agree­ment, if Nor­folk South­ern ever needs to run trains on the track, the city will have to pay to re­move the pave­ment from the tracks and re­place the stop signs. The land where the track runs still be­longs to Nor­folk South­ern. The city also as­sumes all li­a­bil­ity for the in­ter­sec­tions once they have been paved.

The 23 rail­road cross­ings that will be paved over are lo­cated on the fol­low­ing roads:

1. Cony­ers Street 2. South Mill Street 3. Thomp­son Av­enue 4. But­ler Av­enue 5. Floyd Street 6. Sock­well Av­enue 7. An­der­son Av­enue 8. North East Street 9. Lyda Sue Lane 10. Elm Street 11. Pace Street 12. State Road 81/N. Emory Street 13. Spring Street 14. Robin­son Street 15. West Street 16. Clark Street 17. Old Brown Bridge Road 18. Turner Lake Road 19. Lake­view Drive 20. State Road 81/ Washington Street

21. State Road 12/U.S. High­way 278 22. Piper Street 23. Ea­gle Drive/Cov­ing­ton By­Pass Road

Also Mon­day, the Cov­ing­ton coun­cil held a joint work ses­sion with the Newton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers and Newton County In­dus­trial Devel­op­ment Author­ity to dis­cuss po­ten­tial land ac­qui­si­tion and in­dus­trial devel­op­ment. All dis­cus­sion took place in ex­ec­u­tive ses­sion.

Fol­low­ing the meet­ing, mul­ti­ple of­fi­cials said the elected bod­ies took a vote dur­ing ex­ec­u­tive ses­sion. This is usu­ally il­le­gal, but City At­tor­ney Ed Crudup said later that there is an ex­cep­tion to state law, which al­lows elected bod­ies to vote in ex­ec­u­tive ses­sion. He said the land will not be pur­chased un­til the agree­ment is made pub­lic, and the min­utes of the meet­ing would be­come pub­lic once a pur­chase agree­ment was reached.

In the court case John­son v. Board of Com­mis­sion­ers of Bibb County, the Ge­or­gia Court of Ap­peals de­cided in Feb. 2010 that elected bod­ies were al­lowed to vote dur­ing an ex­ec­u­tive ses­sion con­cern­ing a real es­tate pur­chase.

Land ac­qui­si­tion dis­cus­sions are rou­tinely held in ex­ec­u­tive ses­sion, be­cause a pub­lic dis­cus­sion could hin­der the govern­ment body’s abil­ity to ne­go­ti­ate a price and al­low real es­tate spec­u­la­tors to drive up the price.

The coun­cil also on Mon­day ap­proved the fi­nal read­ing of a request for nearly 160 acres of land along Ga. High­way 142 and Air­port Road to be an­nexed into the city and re­zoned heavy in­dus­trial. The vote was again 4-3, with Mayor Carter cast­ing the tie-break­ing vote.

Res­i­dents near the prop­erty had expressed op­po­si­tion to the re­zon­ing, as did coun­cil mem­bers Ocie Franklin, Janet Good­man and Hawnethia Wil­liams.

The coun­cil tabled a vote at its Dec. 20 meet­ing be­cause Coun­cil­man Keith Dal­ton was ab­sent. Wil­liams voted against tabling the mo­tion and again expressed her op­po­si­tion Mon­day, say­ing a vote should have been taken. The re­zon­ing and an­nex­a­tion would likely have been voted down 32.

Brit­tany Thomas/The Cov­ing­ton News

End of the rail line: The City Coun­cil signed an agree­ment with the Nor­folk South­ern Rail­road Com­pany that would al­low them to pave over the old rail­road cross­ings and elim­i­nate the irk­some stop signs.

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