Bridge review tabled

COVINGTON -- Commissioners have tabled a proposal for a transportation consultant to do a maintenance inspection and rank the county's 65 bridges and culverts.

At their April 6 meeting, commissioners were told by County Engineer Kevin Walter that about six months ago, the Georgia Department of Transportation had recommended maintenance on several bridges. One of those bridges was on Mt. Tabor Road. But before repairs could be done, the bridge was damaged by flooding.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has decided because routine maintenance was not done, it will not reimburse the county for repairs to the Mt. Tabor Road bridge, a decision the county is appealing. Walter said even if the suggested repairs had been made, it would not have protected the bridge from flooding damage.

That situation brought to light the need to rank the county's 30 bridges and 35 culverts to develop a priority system for maintenance, Walter said. He recommended the board award a contract not to exceed $46,000 to transportation consultants Hatch Mott MacDonald to rank maintenance in order of importance and estimate the cost of repairs.

"I believe this is money that will help us save money," Walter said. "It will keep us from spending $100,000 on this bridge when we could spend $50,000 on two bridges that are more critical."

Commissioner Mort Ewing said the letter from the DOT already outlines what repairs need to be done and questioned why in-house engineers could not prepare their own report. Commissioner Nancy Schulz noted the DOT report also ranks the structures as fair, good or satisfactory.

Walter responded that with money tighter than ever, the county needs to make sure it is using funds wisely.

He said Hatch Mott MacDonald, formerly J.B. Trimble, has saved the county money in the past, noting a repair to a bridge on Ga. Highway 229 that was estimated to cost $200,000 but was done for $30,000 using an innovative technique normally used on parking decks.

"That's the reason we have great faith in Hatch Mott MacDonald. We don't have the expertise in-house to do that type of engineering," Walter said.

Garrick Edwards with Hatch Mott MacDonald said most of the work his company has done for Newton County has been on an emergency basis due to bridges being downgraded, flooding or structural issues. The county could get more bang for its buck if it took a more proactive approach and identified maintenance issues before they become serious, he said.

The task order was tabled until the commissioners' April 20 work session.