County to foot bill for project
GDOT won't fund work at Crowell Road, Ga. 81

COVINGTON - County commissioners agreed Tuesday night to foot the bill for improvements to the intersection of Crowell Road and Ga. Highway 81 after learning the Georgia Department of Transportation will not provide the expected funding.

Chairman Aaron Varner told the board that he learned a few days ago the funding was no longer available. The DOT was expected to pay the entire construction cost for the project, which will include adding a traffic light and turn lanes, with Newton County and the city of Porterdale to pay for right of way acquisition and utility relocation.

With the project on the books for the last five years and little progress being made, Varner said it's critical to go ahead and fund the work locally, out of special purpose local option sales tax revenues. The estimated cost for construction is $1 million, plus another $375,000 for right of way acquisition. That estimate does not include engineering work. The actual cost of construction will come back before the board for final approval once established, Varner said.

The Porterdale City Council has agreed to pay half of right-of-way costs but has yet to turn over a memorandum of understanding, Varner said.

Mayor Bobby Hamby previously told The Citizen that he had yet to sign the agreement for fear the cost would be more than the city could afford. Hamby said he wanted a cap on how much the city would have to pay.

In August, the Porterdale City Council agreed to have the city's attorney make changes to its intergovernmental agreement with the county, although that has not been completed, Porterdale City Manager Tom Fox said.

Initially, the county had federal money available for the project, but with the long, involved process required for environmental studies, and with traffic worsening at the intersection, the DOT agreed to take it on to lessen the paperwork. In doing so, however, the federal money was lost, and now the state is saying it, too, has no money for the project.

Other road projects on the move

Two more state projects are moving forward, Varner said. Work on the intersection of Ga. highways 20 and 212 and Brown Bridge Road should start before the end of the year. Meanwhile, the county is waiting for the state to issue a notice to proceed for the intersection of Smith Store and Salem Road.

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