Category Archives: City Updates

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A Morning With Mayor Mark

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A Morning With Mayor Mark for Coffee and Conversation takes place Thursday, July 15, 2021 from 9 to 10 a.m. at the Firehouse Event Center, located at 432 Theard Street.

This is an opportunity to meet informally with the mayor in a comfortable setting for city updates and pertinent information. Refreshments provided by Campbell’s Coffee.

For more information, visit the City of Covington in person at 317 N. Jefferson Avenue, call 985-892-1811 or email to info@covla.com. Visit the City of Covington online: covla.com

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City of Covington Announces Michael Ferrell As Chief of Police

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Covington Chief of Police Michael Ferrell was sworn in last week after approval by the City Council. Chief Ferrell is a 28-year law enforcement veteran, beginning his career at the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. Chief Ferrell also worked for the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office and is a graduate of Leadership St. Tammany. Mayor Mark had this to write in his latest e-blast:

“Mike Ferrell is a twenty-eight year veteran of the Law Enforcement arena, with a history of promotions leading progressively to positions of more responsibility. In 2011, he was chosen to attend the FBI National Academy to represent the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Covington Police Chief Michael Ferrell

He has:

· Extensive training in many areas of Law Enforcement including, but not limited to, Investigations, Narcotics, Tactical, Hostage Rescue, Firearms and SWAT Management.
· Extensive instructor certifications including Police Sniper, Taser, Explosive Handler, Clandestine Lab Site Safety Officer, Glock and Colt M-4 Armorer.
·
An uninterrupted work history in the field of Law Enforcement for twenty-eight years.

· In 2017, he was chosen to represent the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office in the Leadership St. Tammany Class. This is where I came to know Mike Ferrell as a Policeman’s Policeman and as a hardworking and dedicated professional with Leadership qualities.

After working at the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office for several years, Chief Ferrell began working at the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, where he worked in the Criminal Patrol Division, Street Crimes/Narcotics, SWAT, served as the District 3 Commander and served as a Deputy Chief in Administration.

Commendations
· Medal of Valor, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, 2004
· Medal of Merit, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, 2000
· Medal of Merit, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, 1999
· Medal of Merit, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, 1996

For the sake of time, I’m not going to list all 26 of his Training Certificates.

Without offering any names, I asked Mandeville Police Chief Gerald Sticker who he would choose as a Chief. His answer was Mike Ferrell.

Assistant DA Head of Criminal Division Colin Sims endorses Mike.

Fire Chief Gary Blocker attended Leadership St. Tammany with Mike and endorses the appointment: “For many years, I have gotten to know Michael Ferrell on both a professional and personal level. He has always demonstrated professionalism, responsibility and dedication to the service. I know he will be an asset to this great leadership team that this city has. He will bring his leadership philosophy and professionalism to the Covington Police Department, making it the best police department it can be.”

One member of the Sheriff’s Department told me, “Mayor, you nailed it. Mike Ferrell is the right person for Covington at this time.”

Sargent Brett Miller of the Covington Police Department wrote, “On behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 43 and as a representative of the men and women of the Covington Police Department, I would like to applaud you on your decision to appoint Michael Ferrell as the new Chief of Police for the City of Covington … The men and women of the Covington Police Department fully stand behind your decision to appoint Ferrell and we all look forward to the accomplishments our agency can conquer under his leadership.”

I spoke to District Attorney Warren Montgomery. He offered and subsequently sent a letter of recommendation. In it, he states that, “Mr. Ferrell served with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s office and engaged with my staff in a positive manner. His performance at the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office and interaction with my staff ultimately resulted in my hiring Mr. Ferrell as one of my felony investigators. While serving in this capacity, Mr. Ferrell demonstrated his aptitude for the job by balancing a high caseload of several felony divisions of court, each having hundreds of defendants pending trial. The experience that Mr. Ferrell received by being a felony investigator will be an advantage to the City of Covington as Chief of the Police Department.

Mr. Montgomery went on to write: “I hate to lose a good employee, but I look forward to working with Mr. Ferrell.”

It is important, very important, to note that none of these endorsements were solicited.

With all of this in mind, as the Mayor and per the City Charter, I hereby appoint Mike Ferrell as the City of Covington’s new Police Chief and respectfully request that the Council confirm this selection.

(L-R) Covington Police Chief Michael Ferrell and Covington Mayor Mark Johnson

Subsequently, Chief Ferrell was unanimously approved by the City Council.

Former Mandeville PD Chief Rick Richard sent me this note:
“Mark – just a quick note to say that you made an excellent choice in Mike Ferrell for your Chief of Police. I observed Mike firsthand during my tenure as Chief in Mandeville and I can attest that he certainly has the leadership qualities you desire and he possesses. Congratulations and I look forward to great things.”

ADA and Chief Investigator Vincent Saltaformaggio wrote, “As Chief Investigator who has worked in law enforcement on a parish, state and international level over the past forty-one years as a LA State Trooper, DEA special agent and now as DA Chief Investigator, Michael Ferrell has my highest recommendation for this position. I have no doubt he will be an outstanding addition to your team.”

Congratulations Chief Ferrell and welcome to Covington!

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Groundbreaking & Downtown Roadway Projects

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The City of Covington held a groundbreaking ceremony at Gulf Coast Bank for the Boston Street Overlay Project Tuesday morning. Mayor Mark thanked Senator Patrick McMath and Representative Mark Wright for their help in bringing the project to fruition, explaining that the Overlay Project was a result of needed improvements to the roadway after addressing sewerage and drainage issues over the last year. Parish President Cooper made a few brief statements and the group took some pictures. Other city officials in attendance included City Councilmen Mark Verret, Joey Roberts, John Botsford, Peter Lewis and Larry Rolling; Chief of Police Stephen Culotta, Fire Chief Gary Blocker and Assistant Fire Chief Steven Michel; representatives of City administration and Gulf Coast Bank.

(l – r) Parish President Mike Cooper, State Representative Mark Wright, Mayor Mark Johnson, State Senator Patrick McMath, Councilman Larry Rolling, Councilman Peter Lewis, Councilman Mark Verret, Councilman John Botsford and Councilman Joey Roberts.

For more information about the City of Covington, call 985-892-1811 and visit them online at covla.com, where you can also sign up for Mayor Mark’s E-list Sign Up! Find the City of Covington on Facebook.

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Covington is preparing for its first roundabout that DOTD will build at the intersection of Jefferson and 21st. Roundabouts in the area, including Abita Springs and Highway 59, have received favorable response and keep traffic flowing.

Proposed roundabout at the intersection of Jefferson and 21st.

Mayor Mark reports that:

“Although DOTD is responsible for design and construction of the road, we (the City) are responsible for the necessary utility line relocations.

We have completed moving the utility lines. DOTD is at 60% design completion.

The FAQ: Can’t we put a fountain, statue or plantings in the center?

The Answer: DOTD frowns upon anything which might obstruct the sight triangle within the circle.”

Sign up for Mayor Mark’s e-blast at covla.com

City Updates Local News

City of Covington Looking for Lifeguards

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Would You Like To Spend Your Summer By The Pool? Lifeguards Wanted!

The City of Covington is looking for Lifeguards for Summer 2021. Applicants must be 16 years or older and lifeguard certified or willing to successfully complete the Red Cross Lifeguard Certification Program (Paid for by the City of Covington).

To apply online, go to covla.com/city-departments/human-resources to find a full job description and employment application.

City Updates Local News

City of Covington Utility Bill Update

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A message from the City of Covington via Mayor Mark regarding Utility Bills:

Due to an error by the utility bill printing company, duplicates of the April utility bills stating “Final Bill” were mailed out to all customers.You may DISREGARD this second bill and pay the amount due indicated on the FIRST bill mailed out. If you have already paid your April utility bill, please DISREGARD this second notice.We apologize for any confusion and inconvenience this situation has caused.

The City of Covington sustained a cyber attack several weeks ago resulting in the utility billing issue. For more information, call the City of Covington at 985-892-1873. Visit the City of Covington online at covla.com, where you can also sign up for Mayor Mark’s email updates.

City Updates Local News

Covington City Council Hearing and Public Plan Adoption

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The Covington Comprehensive Plan 2030 presents a hearing and public plan adoption at the Covington City Council Chambers on Monday, April 19, 2021 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. This is a free public event.

If you are not able to attend in-person, a live online viewing option is available. The presentation will be recorded and available for viewing on the project website. Any input is welcome via email at info@covingtonplan2030.com. Find Covington Comprehensive Plan 2030 on facebook or visit them online at covingtonplan2030.com.

City Updates Local News

City of Covington Network Hack Update

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Mayor Mark Updates in his e-blast that the City of Covington is fully open, but not fully operational:

Due to the recent hack of the City’s network, utility bills are being mailed out later than usual. The Utility Billing Department is working hard to have bills sent out as soon as possible. At this time, the due date and ACH payments for the current billing cycle are expected to stay on schedule despite the late mail-out. Should additional delays arise as the City continues to recover from the hack the schedule will be adjusted and customers will be notified. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience as we continue to rebuild City operations. To sign up for Mayor Mark’s e-mail blast, visit covla.com
City Updates Local News

City of Covington Cyber Attack Update

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The following are updates from the City of Covington Facebook page about the recent cyber attack on the city’s server. Sign up to receive updates from the city at www.covla.com

Monday March 15, 2021

The Louisiana National Guard Cyber Restoration Unit worked continuously over the weekend with City Information Technology (IT) personnel. There remains no timeline for system functionality. I am pleased to report that one member of the Guard shared that the City of Covington IT team is “one of top three we have ever worked with.” That’s nice … congratulations to IT Director Quenton Belanger, Police Chief Deputy Trey Mahon and IT-Man Aaron Hebert.

Police, Fire, Public Works, Cultural Arts and Events, Parks and Recreation and Facilities are all fully deployed and operational. Utility Billing and Finance (computer-based functions) remain severely hampered.

Continue to use 911 for all emergencies. Text CPDLA, space, then your message to 847411 for police non-emergencies. In a practical sense, this has permanently replaced calling 892-8500.

Last week’s hack was one of perhaps 30,000 that occurred. More details are available at CBS News Report “Microsoft Hack” https://www.cbsnews.com/…/microsoft-exchange-server…/

Importance of Two-Factor Authentication: Lately we see more and more businesses asking us (as individuals) for two-factor authentication i.e. “text a code to your phone.” Regardless of this particular breach of security, one may now presume the bad guys have your personal information. It is just a matter of time before they make a play on your assets. The two-factor authentication is an important way to prevent them from using your information. -MMJ

March 12, 2021

Yesterday morning around 7:00am we discovered a significant hack into the City of Covington’s computer systems. All systems were locked down including Police, Fire, Public Works, Utility Billing and Finance.

By 11:00am yesterday the State Cyber Security Alliance was on site investigating and securing our systems. The Alliance consists of experts from the State Department of Homeland Security, LA State Police Department and New Orleans Field Office of the Secret Service. They were at City Hall in less than 240 minutes. Pretty impressive.

This morning members of the LA National Guard Cyber Restoration Team began arriving. They are working to get the City back up and running.

The Team’s priorities are first responders, utility billing and then key administrative functions.Regarding retrieval of information, we are currently in the process of diagnostics. We cannot offer an opinion on what was taken or is recoverable until we have a proper diagnosis.

At this point we can speculate it will be a week or so before we have basic operational functions.

The cyber security team has shared we are one victim of tens of thousands in America in this current wave of breaches … the bad guys found a vulnerability in a Microsoft program. – MMJ

Sign up for updates from the City of Covington www.covla.com or follow them on Facebook.

City Updates Local News

City Council Clerk Bonnie Champagne Retires After 13 Years of Service

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Pictured left to right – Councilman Peter Lewis, Councilman Mark Verret, Councilman-at-Large Larry Rolling, Bonnie Champagne, Councilman-at-Large Rick Smith, Councilwoman Cody Ludwig, and Councilman John Botsford. Photo provided by Larry Rolling

Bonnie Champagne was commemorated for her 13 years of service as the City of Covington’s Council Clerk at the February 2nd City Council meeting.

Councilman Larry Rolling presents Bonnie Champagne with a plaque commemorating her service. Photo provided by Larry Rolling

“Bonnie Champagne was a great asset to the city and will be missed,” said Covington Councilman-at-Large Larry Rolling. “We all wish her a happy retirement!”

JoAnn Rucker will take the place of the City Council Clerk. Learn more about the Covington City Council at www.covla.com/covington-city-council/

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A Morning with Mayor Mark – Coffee & Conversation March 9th

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City of Covington Mayor Mark Johnson invites you to join him for A Morning of Coffee & Conversation at the Bogue Falaya Hall on Tuesday, March 9th, 2021, from 9 am – 10 am.

Mayor Mark continues this quarterly informal meet-and-greet with the public to give updates and talk about recent news in town. He may even share a historical anecdote. Coffee and other refreshments are provided by Campbell’s Coffee.

Because of social distancing measures seating is limited – please register in advance at bontempstix.com/events/morningwithmayormark if you would like to attend. This is a free event.

Visit covla.com and sign up for Mayor Mark’s emails for more updates.

City Updates Local News

City of Covington Construction Project Update from Mayor Mark Johnson

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The following is from Covington Mayor Mark Johnson‘s most recent e-mail update. Sign up for updates at www.covla.com

The City has been quite active during the past 60 days regarding infrastructure improvements. Kudos to engineer Callie Baker for getting these engineering and construction contracts underway:

1) Repave Boston Street (LA Hwy 21) engineering design. Special thanks to Senator Patrick McMath and Representative Mark Wright for funding.
2) That said, the City currently has no money budgeted to repave any of our other downtown or Division of Spring streets. We will continue to focus on repairing, replacing and lining our aging and leaky sewer lines.
3) Updating water line on 14th Ave between Jefferson and Jahncke. Retired Fire Chief Richard Badon had lamented the lack of a hydrant in this area.
4) Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) Chlorine system maintenance.
5) The screening apparatus at WWTP has been broken for a couple of years. This means every object flushed into our sewer system has been hand-raked out of our waste water input. Repairing this apparatus is a good thing.
6) State law requires engineers calculate the load bearing of all bridges every two years. Like most of America, our bridge system is aging out.
7) Crepe myrtles planted near the sidewalk have rooted into the culverts on Lockwood between Columbia St. and Florida St. This has had an adverse effect on drainage. While repairing the drainage culverts, we will take this opportunity to also repair the sewer lines.
8) Miscellaneous repairs (phase I) per 2016 engineering study for WWTP.
9) Replace aging generator at WWTP. Plant receives, treats and discharges about one million gallons of effluent into the Tchefuncte River daily.
10) Extending Philip Drive water line to provide water to Fire Station #2.
11) Safety striping of 15th Avenue from Hubie Gallager to River Forest and at westward bound turn at 15th Ave and S. Tyler St
12) Engineering design for replacement of Lurline Drive from Karen to Division Street.*
13) Sewer line breaks along Lurline Drive identified by smoke testing and cameras will be repaired prior to replacing street.
14) Engineering State required guard rails for 15th Ave / Rattle Snake Branch bridge.
15) Engineering design for replacement of Columbia Street / Mile Branch. No $$s are currently budgeted for actual construction (estimated at $1M).
16) All abilities access path along the riverside of Bogue Falaya Park is coming in under budget (grant provided dollars, thank you Mayor Cooper’s administration). Unused grant funds are being applied to extending the path behind the playground along Mackie Creek.

*As a rule, I do not offer timelines for completion. My life experience as a builder / developer tells me such estimates are seldom correct, create false expectations and disappointment.

Also, a shout-out to Chief Administrative Officer Erin Bivona, Director of Finance Stephen Sanders and Public Works Director Chris Davis. The procurement process is tedious, heavily regulated, counter to typical business methods and miserable. Their work and expertise are critical to us overcoming the waterfall of bureaucracy.

www.covla.com

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Update from Councilman Mark Verret – CPD Update, Sewer & Road Improvements

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This update is from Covington City Councilman Mark Verret, District E:

Largely due to the efforts at increasing police pay, I am pleased to report that we have six new recruits who have undergone training at the Police Academy and three newly hired, experienced officers with updated Field Training. It is unbelievable that we have been so severely understaffed for so long.  As can easily be seen on a daily basis, we need a fully staffed department as we seek increased compliance with speeding, running stop signs, etc., in addition to daily patrol duties of responding to calls.  We will have five officers on duty along with a fully staffed traffic division.  Thank you all for your support of our initiative in this regard.  Here are our new recruits “enjoying” training…

As we continue to move forward, I would also like to address the continuing deplorable condition of our city streets.  Unfortunately, many of our streets in downtown and especially in Old Covington are in pretty bad shape.  Most of this is caused by sewer point repairs. Unlike many other nearby municipalities, many of our potholes are the result of actually fixing the broken lines.  

The aging sewer lines of Covington have suffered for far too long with many leaks. On a sunny day, our waste water treatment plant receives and treats about 1,000,000 gallons of waste water and on a rainy day, we receive about 9,000,000 gallons of waste water. 

For the past few years, we have been focused on repairing these breaks in the line. In many cases, the “patches” you drive over are the result of an in-depth excavation and pipe repair. After the breaks are repaired, a synthetic lining is inserted into each of the old pipes, giving us an “almost new” pipe. There has been a directed effort at repairing these sewer lines across the city. But our streets are in desperate need of repair as well. As we move forward, I will continue to fight for increased budgeting for the actual street repairs. You may have heard and I am pleased to report that we were able to get funding to repair Boston Street.

In our December 8th City Council meeting, we passed a resolution giving Mayor Johnson the authority to execute a cooperative endeavor agreement with the Louisiana Department of Treasury and the State of Louisiana for a Line Item Appropriation in Act 45 of the 2020 Second Extraordinary Legislative Session for Roadway Improvements which secured a $500,000.00 grant to resurface Boston Street from Jefferson Avenue to Lee Lane.  

If you should encounter an unusually bad pothole, please notify our Public Works Department at (985) 898-4700.

The City of Covington Public Works Department is responsible for maintenance and improvements for the city’s entire infrastructure. This includes sewer plant operations, sewage collection system, water wells, lift stations, traffic signs, drainage and city streets.

The Public Works Department is committed to the following goals:

  • To provide prompt, courteous and professional customer service to the community
  • To improve the quality of life within the community
  • To strive for high standards in organizational productivity and efficiency
  • To keep all city infrastructure maintained at the highest level possible to provide effective and safe use

For after-hours sewer or water emergencies:
Call (985) 898-4700 (24 hours/7 days a week)

Non-Emergency Service Requests:
Phone Requests:  (985) 898-4700
Fax Requests:      (985) 898-4729
Email Requests:   publicworks@covla.com

If you are emailing the Dept. of Public Works about a utility (water pressure or sewer backup) issue or a street issue that cannot wait until the next business day, please call their office number at (985) 898-4700.  This number is answered 24/7 regardless if it is after normal business hours, weekends or holidays.

Although we encounter setbacks from time to time, together we’ll keep moving forward to advance our position with measured progress.

Mark W. Verret
Councilman, District E
mverret@covla.com