City to help busi­ness- led im­prove­ments

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - ROB DEWIG rdewig@cov­

Mayor Ron­nie John­ston con­vinced the Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil to take a “gam­ble” Mon­day and give $25,000 to the form­ing “com­mu­nity im­prove­ment district (CID),” which busi­ness own­ers are form­ing along U.S. 278 to raise money for area im­prove­ments.

A CID al­lows businesses, with the ap­proval of the city and state leg­is­la­ture, to raise taxes on them­selves pro­vided 51 per­cent of busi­ness own­ers con­trol­ling 75 per­cent of the tax base agree. The money, which is over and above the taxes nor­mally col­lected by the city, would be used to pay for ev­ery­thing from new side­walks to land­scap­ing.

“I am ex­tremely ex­cited about it and this is not a gov­ern­men­tal thing,” John­ston said. The group, which does not have a for­mal name, has as­sured him that hav­ing 51 per­cent of own­ers sign­ing on will hap­pen. But it has not hap­pened yet.

“This is a great, great way to get a cor­ri­dor re­vamped in a much shorter time than a govern­ment could nor­mally do it,” he said. He called the city’s $25,000 con­tri­bu­tion “seed money,” but warned coun­cil mem­bers that “this is a gam­ble a lit­tle bit.”

The cor­ri­dor will in­clude businesses, but no res­i­dences, from Exit 90 to Martin’s Cross­ing, where the old Wal-Mart stood.

City Man­ager Leigh Anne Knight said the CID board is con­sid­er­ing 3 per­cent to 5 per­cent in­creases in their mill­age rates, with all in­creases to come back to the non-profit board to be spent on im­prove­ments along the cor­ri­dor. The CID process has been tried at least seven times in Ge­or­gia, in­clud­ing Gwin­nett Commons, and has been suc­cess­ful.

She said the for­ma­tion of a CID opens the area to grants that would not nor­mally be avail­able to gov­ern­ments.

John­ston ac­knowl­edged that some busi­ness own­ers won’t like the idea, but the city’s in­volve­ment should be a good thing over­all.

“Yes, the city of Cov­ing­ton is en­gaged in the process and we want (busi­ness own­ers) to see im­prove­ment in your area.”

He said all banks along the cor­ri­dor have com­mit­ted to the project, as has the Kroger com­plex.

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