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Covington: On the Serious Side

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Mayor Mark recently launched a constant contact email blast to update the citizens of Covington with city news and events. Covington Weekly is printing ‘Covington: On The Serious Side’ to help facilitate this information reaching the public.
Mayor Mark: “In October, I was bothered to learn that the Covington Police Department has been short staffed for at least the past ten years. Our officers are the lowest paid in St. Tammany Parish. We hire, pay for the Academy and field train them only to have them move to other law enforcement agencies. In the past ten years, over 35 officers have left to work for other agencies. 75% of our officers have been with us for 5 years or less.

Three Divisions (chart above):
1) Far left is traffic. The three “orange” are reserves. They don’t count. The three purple were actually in the Academy at this time. Since I have been Mayor, we have had zero traffic enforcement officers in the traffic division.
2) Center is Admin and investigations. “Yellow in investigations means two vacancies. Red ‘X’ at top of Admin left for personal reasons. He will have to be replaced with someone from Patrol, causing Patrol to have one less officer.
3) Patrol should consist of 4 shifts, 12 hours each, every other week – five officers per shift. In reality, we have 3 or 4 officers patrolling our streets. During that time they will typically have an arrest, an accident with injury and/ or a domestic violence situation.
Each requires two officers on site, leaving us with one or two responding to all other calls for service. Net result is little time for non-emergency matters such as speeding or stop signs. Since this October chart, another patrol officer has left and three have given notice. They will be replaced by five new hires.

Public Works Short Staffed More recently, I learned that of our labor workforce in Public Works, we have a shortage of 20%. It is difficult to hire and retain employees with a pay scale that ranges from $10.50 an hour for straight labor to $16.00 an hour for skilled operators.
Per Human Resources, ‘candidates for the Labor I spots have had a multitude of issues – no driver’s license, failed drug tests, non-returned calls, background issues and poor quality candidates.’
I now understand what a strain this shortage puts on those employees that remain. I am grateful to them for the work they do to keep our infrastructure cleaned and draining.
Fire Department Our primary pumper response truck is a 1993 model. It should have been decommissioned in 2008. Of note, the new truck we just received is a ladder-truck. It was paid for by a grant. We have applied for grants for a new pumper truck, but unsuccessfully.

Waste Water Treatment Plant
Receives, treats and discharges 1,000,000 gallons of effluent into Tchefuncte River 24/7/365.
Does so in compliance.
Receives 9,000,000 gallons on a rainy day due to ‘I n I’ i.e. inflow and infiltration. We are aggressively attacking this problem. Lacks redundancy of key components.
Utility Fund Transfer In our budget we have a line called “Utility Fund Transfer.” Basically, what the City of Covington charges to provide sewer and water does not cover the cost to provide sewer and water. Tax dollars (sales and property) are taken from the General Fund to make up the difference. This year, of an $18,000,000 operating budget, we will be taking over $2,000,000 to cover this cost. Much of this expense is related to improving or replacing failing terracotta sewer pipes throughout the community.
In an effort to rebuild the Police force, fully staff Public Works, replace aging fire trucks, insure we properly maintain the treatment plant… then tackle Collins Blvd., Tyler and 21st and other deferred priorities, I have suggested raising utility rates an average of $20 per month. The rates have not been raised in over ten years. Under this scenario, we would still be subsidizing our utility rages by over $1.2 million.
None of us like to pay more, whether in utilities or in taxes. However, I believe we have an expectation of the City to provide the basic services described above… and to do so in a professional manner.”

50 Broken Sewer Lines Downtown

On March 16, 2020, contractors begin repairs of over 50 broken sewer lines in downtown Covington. The work will include repairing sewer mains, replacing damaged sewer laterals, lining the old pipes with a synthetic lining and stalling sewer clean-outs at the property line.

Residents should expect short term traffic detours on most streets while this work is being done. Roadway patches will be installed to minimize traffic disruptions. The streets affected will be Rutland, Boston, Gibson, Lockwood, Florida, Lee and Courthouse Alley.
To minimize traffic delays, work on LA HWY 21 (Boston Street) will be performed at night. The street will be reopened during the day.

This work will take several months to complete. It is another big step to improve our sewer infrastructure, help care for our environment and prevent large potholes or cave-ins on our streets. Thank you for your cooperation and patience. – Mayor Mark