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School board, county join forces on grant
Secure parking in works for courthouse

COVINGTON - County commissioners signed off Tuesday night on a grant application that, if approved, would make the journey to school for some local students a lot safer.

A $500,000 grant under the Safe Routes to School Program is up for grabs for local projects that assist and encourage children to walk and bike to school.

The proposed project that would benefit from the grant is a pedestrian bridge over Brown Bridge Road at Veterans Middle School and West Newton Elementary School. It would include sidewalks on both sides of Brown Bridge Road east to Salem Road, lighting and handicap accessible entrance ramps.

"A committee comprised of the County Engineering Department, County Sheriff's Office, and representatives of the Board of Education staff, and the Center studied several locations in the county and recommends that this location is the most deserving for such a project," said County Engineer Kevin Walter in a memo to the Board of Commissioners. "There is a serious speeding problem at this location and school children from the large Silos subdivision across the street are dangerously crossing the street although prohibited by schools from doing so."

The grant is funded under the Federal Transportation Act and administered by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

DOT consultants would be responsible for the designing, advertising and awarding of a construction contract and supervising construction.

The grant requires no matching local funds but must be built on publicly-owned right-of-way or school property.

The Board of Education will file the application but was required to get permission from the county first since the county will handle maintenance and the contract with the DOT.

In other news, commissioners approved construction of a secure parking area at the Newton County Judicial Center.

The 20-space fenced-in parking area will be used by judges, the district attorney, superior court clerk and other staff, who will also have a separate entrance into the building.

Superior Court Judge Samuel D. Ozburn said such security measures are becoming more necessary.

"I think it says a lot for y'all to be proactive rather than waiting for something to happen," he told the board.

The low bidder for the project was Sunbelt Builders Inc. at $228,972.10. The project will be funded through the county's general fund.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.