City to con­sider fire code waivers

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - ROB DEWIG rdewig@cov­news.com

Old build­ings might not meet new fire codes. But city of­fi­cials are con­sid­er­ing ways to en­sure that doesn’t mean those build­ings have to close their doors.

Mon­day night, Cov­ing­ton Fire Depart­ment Chief John McNeil asked the coun­cil to amend city or­di­nances to al­low the lo­cal fire mar­shal to is­sue waivers — or “al­ter­na­tives,” to use his word — to some fire codes when it comes to old businesses built be­fore new laws took ef­fect.

Some businesses, he said, might not have two en­trances. By adopt­ing the new waiver code based on state or­di­nances, the fire mar­shal might be able to sug­gest, say, an “early warn­ing sys­tem” as a re­place­ment for a sec­ond exit. It’s a way to “work with his­toric build­ings” with­out con­sign­ing them to his­tory books, he said.

Mayor Ron­nie John­ston sug­gested tabling the is­sue for now, and the coun­cil agreed.

“It’s pretty de­tailed stuff,” John­ston said. “Let’s make sure we’re ad­dress­ing what the city needs.”

A work ses­sion will be sched­uled to dis­cuss the idea.

City con­sid­ers bus­ing grant

En­gi­neer Vin­cent Pas­sariello asked the coun­cil to con­sider ap­ply­ing for a rare grant from the state Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion which might al­low the city to buy buses and a main­te­nance and stor­age garage to help lo­cal pub­lic trans­porta­tion.

The coun­cil tabled the idea un­til July 14 to learn more.

In a nut­shell, Pas­sariello said, the ap­pli­ca­tion for the grant is due Aug. 4, and re­quires a 20 per­cent match by the city. The GDOT has $100 mil­lion to spend, and he ad­mit­ted most would likely go to At­lanta’s MARTA sys­tem. But some might be avail­able for Cov­ing­ton. The city should ap­ply in any case, he said, as it can al­ways deny the grant if it’s awarded. John­ston was hes­i­tant be­cause of the pos­si­ble prece­dent. “Right now there may be some need, I’m not say­ing there’s not, but right now it seems like shoot­ing in the dark,” he said. Where is the ser­vice needed? How will the city pay for it when the grant runs out? The grant in­cludes only money to buy equip­ment, not main­tain or re­place it.

“There’s need all over here,” Coun­cil­woman Janet A. Good­man agreed, “but there’s a lot of ques­tions for me.”

John­ston said the idea is tempt­ing, “but we might be cre­at­ing a hu­mon­gous prob­lem four or five years down the road.”

Good­man agreed: “We need to look at it be­fore we say no.”

I-20 over­pass lights ap­proved

The coun­cil also unan­i­mously voted to pro­vide elec­tric­ity and main­te­nance to new street­lights planned for the pro­posed I-20 pedes­trian over­pass, a project sim­i­lar to the Turner Lake un­der­pass. The agree­ment is for 50 years, but city at­tor­ney Ed­ward Crudup Jr. said that was noth­ing un­usual.

The coun­cil’s next meet­ing will be at 6 p.m. July 14, and it will in­clude a dis­cus­sion of changes to the city park­ing or­di­nance.

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