Porterdale, Newton to split cost of right of way

COVINGTON - The Porterdale City Council voted Monday night to enter into an agreement with Newton County to split the costs in half of acquiring all the rights of way at the intersection of Ga. Highway 81 and Crowell Road for a proposed improvement project.

Progress on the project, which would help improve traffic flow at the busy intersection by adding a red light and turn lanes, has been slow.

Councilman Robert Foxworth, who made the motion that the city enter into the agreement, said he felt it was time for the city to move forward on the intersection project and added that he believed it was a proposal that the Newton County Board of Commissioners would agree to.

"I don't want this to get away from Porterdale by not moving forward," he told the council.

In his motion, Foxworth stipulated that the city use the funds earmarked for transportation from the 2005 special purpose local option sales tax amounting to $409,000 to pay for its share of the right-of-way acquisitions.

"I think that money will be well spent on this intersection," Foxworth said.

The DOT will be footing the bill for the construction costs of widening the intersection, an estimated $1.7 million, but the right-of-way acquisitions and cost to move utilities will have to be funded by the city, county or a combination of the two. The DOT estimates that it will cost about $296,000 to purchase the rights of way and another $54,190 to move the utilities at the site.

At a meeting held last year between the two governing bodies, BOC Chairman Aaron Varner told the Porterdale Council that the scenario the BOC would most likely be willing to accept is one in which the county would pay for all the costs associated with acquiring the rights of way, such as legal fees, appraisals and negotiations with the land owners, as long as the city of Porterdale would be responsible for the actual purchases.

Foxworth suggested at that time that they split the cost 50-50.

Councilwoman Arline Hayes Chapman disagreed with Foxworth on Monday, stating that the council should take more time to negotiate the right-of-way purchases and get a formal agreement in writing prior to moving forward.

"I think there is time to enter into negotiations on that," she said. "I never think it is a wise move to sign onto something you haven't seen on paper."

Councilwoman Kay Piper also said she felt further negotiations were necessary with the county.

"Our funds are so limited in Porterdale," she told the council.

Foxworth responded by stating that he was tired of the holdup on the intersection project and that he wanted a vote on his motion.

"It's like talking to a wall ... I'm tired of nickel-and-diming it. Let's take a vote on it and see where we stand," he said. "I'm through talking ... I'm moving forward with the motion."

Prior to the vote, Mayor Bobby Hamby added his input to the discussion, stating that he felt the council should negotiate the right-of-acquisition to a "fair figure."

The mayor also cited a traffic study commissioned by the city which he said showed that Porterdale residents were only responsible for 20 percent of the traffic generated at the intersection.

"Porterdale wants to run with the big dogs but doesn't want to get off the porch!" Foxworth said.

By a 3-2 vote, the council voted to enter into the proposed agreement.

Immediately following the vote, Foxworth made a motion to send the agreement immediately to the BOC so that it could be placed on their March 18 agenda.

The council passed the motion by another 3-2 vote.

According to Foxworth, DOT officials are scheduled to meet with members of the council and residents at Porterdale City Hall at 1 p.m. today to give an update on the project.

Joel Griffin can be reached at joel.griffin@newtoncitizen.com.