County to get more data on damage

COVINGTON -- The county will pay approximately $73,500 to obtain cost estimates on repairs to roads and bridges damaged by flooding.

Though the Georgia Department of Transportation has already inspected the roads and bridges, its report will likely not be ready by the Dec. 8 deadline established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Chairman Kathy Morgan. If the deadline is not met, the county will lose its chance to get federal funding for repairs, she said.

"I believe it's in the best interest of the county to spend this money," Morgan told the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night.

The money will come out of the public works budget and some of the cost could be reimbursed by FEMA, she said.

Two task orders totaling more than $11,000 were approved by the board for transportation consultants PBS&J to conduct a cost analysis of repairs to Sockwell Road and Old Sockwell Road trestle bridge.

The trestle was knocked into the Yellow River during the flooding, and the county is seeking federal aid to pay for its removal. If it is not removed, Morgan said it could create flooding conditions for nearby residents.

The board also approved six more task orders totaling approximately $62,000 for cost analyses by transportation consultant Hatch Mott McDonald on Crowell Road, Mount Tabor Road bridge, Brown Bridge Road bridge, Rocky Plains Road bridge and Sewell Road bridge.

County Engineer Kevin Walter said the DOT inspections were mainly to determine if bridges and roads were safe to reopen and it's best to get a more detailed analysis to submit to FEMA to boost the chances of getting more funding.

"To do a cost estimate, you have to have an idea of how you're going to repair it, a kind of conceptual design ... We know we're only getting one chance to request funds. If we ask for the moon, we're not going to get it. If we ask for too little, that's all we're going to get," he said.

Dive teams will also be sent down to inspect the structures of Mount Tabor Road, Brown Bridge Road and Rocky Plains Road bridges, he said.

Mount Tabor and a portion of Crowell Road have remained closed since the flooding in late September. Temporary repairs will begin on Crowell Road next week. The county is waiting for further evaluation of Mount Tabor Road bridge before it reopens, Walter said.

The DOT gave conflicting reports to the county about the bridge, first saying it was not safe to open and then contradicting that one week later.

"They couldn't give us an explanation of how it had changed so rapidly. We're a little nervous that it was damaged so much that perhaps it is not structurally safe," Walter said.

The county is eligible to receive up to 75 percent reimbursement from FEMA to get roads and bridges back to their pre-flood condition. Any repairs above and beyond that may or may not be eligible for reimbursement.

Projects must be started within 18 to 24 months, but there is no deadline for completion, Morgan said.

She said the county will stagger the start dates of projects so that all affected roads are not closed at the same time.