County ready to lease USDA room

Published 11:59 pm Monday, March 23, 2009

Commissioners established a rental fee Monday for the multi-purpose meeting room in the U.S. Department of Agriculture building.

The day’s action was one of two items discussed in December designed to increase revenue for the county. The other item — the potential lease of the Covington Center Arena — was not discussed Monday.

“We took several hints from Andalusia, who has some buildings they rent out like this,” said county administrator Brenda Petty. “Commissioner Harold Elmore and I, along with my staff, really put our heads together to come up with what we think is fair.”

Rental fees for the 1,510 square-foot building are broken down into four categories —community service/non-profit; private groups; non-profit fund-raising and commercial. Fees are $20, $50, $25 and $75 respectively per hour, with a two-hour minimum, and are effective April 1. The building seats 75 and is equipped with kitchen and restroom facilities.

In December, commissioners also tasked Petty and county attorney Julie Moody to prepare a potential lease agreement for the arena. To date, no agreement has been presented to the commission nor has anyone expressed an interest in leasing the facility. Overall, the county spends approximately $427,471 on the arena each year.

In an effort to save more operational costs, Petty said Monday she was also able to negotiate a reduced payment for four equipment notes. The reduced rates will be in effect until the equipment pieces are sold in the summer.

Commissioners also heard from Brooke Bozeman and Mike Francis of JMS Solutions in Fairhope, who have chosen Covington County as a test model for the research and development phase of its inter-operable radio alert system. The project, which was funded by a federal grant awarded to JMS Solutions, aims to integrate into as many utility, alert, state and local informational systems that have the ability to alert and pre-alert to natural disasters and local level threats.

“Our goal is to develop something tangible that can be placed in homes everywhere that will gather information from every available source — the National Weather Service, Department of Homeland Security, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and local sources,” said Francis, the company’s president. “We’ve all felt the blow of many disasters from hurricanes to tornadoes. Each of those agencies hold valuable information during those times. We want to develop a product that will make that information available at all times to the people who need it.”

Francis said this is the research and development phase of the project and his end result is to use Covington County as a test site for his product.

Commissioners agreed to support the company’s project.

In other business, the commission:

Recognized the Covington Region Honor Flight, set for May 2. Applications are available until March 31. The commission agreed to donate $1,200, which will cover the cost of three veterans

Signed a resolution proclaiming March and April as Spring Clean Up months.

Approved a liquor license for Adams Package Store between Opp and Kinston.

Announced the application of several law enforcement grants.

Awarded bids for paint, seed, fertilizer and glass beads.