Progress being made on museum

COVINGTON -- After numerous delays, progress is finally being made on the creation of the Newton County History Center, a museum planned for the historic jail on Stallings Street.

Architectural plans are expected to be completed by the end of the week, followed by a request for qualifications that will be sent out to contractors. Those who qualify will then submit bids for approval by the Board of Commissioners.

The project is being funded by SPLOST 2005; $500,000 was allocated and of that, $389,000 remains, according to Special Projects Coordinator Cheryl Delk.

"We don't know until we get bids how far we'll be able to go with that amount," she said, adding that the priorities will be work on the building's roof, exterior and installing heating and air conditioning.

"We're hoping to get those things accomplished so we can stabilize that building and whatever's left on the interior, we hope to include on the next SPLOST," she said.

Delk said SPLOST revenues are designated for specific projects and cannot be used to supplement the county's general fund.

Progress on the building has been delayed due to dwindling sales tax revenue. Also, the architect selected by the county, Lane Greene of Atlanta, died several months ago.

But progress has been creeping along. Through a $50,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs -- requiring a $50,000 match that was split by the city and county, for a total of $100,000 -- a strategic plan for the museum, along with a logo, was developed. There have also been interpretive panels created that are on display around the county, which will ultimately be housed in the museum. Also, audio and video equipment was purchased to record oral histories given by local residents.

An interpretive monument pointing out historic sites of interest will also soon be put out in front of the building. In addition, non-historic demolition and testing and abatement of asbestos and lead has been completed.

In addition to the grant, $3,600 has been raised and donated by residents or civic organizations to apply to the project, Delk said.

Once a contractor is selected, work should be completed within three to four months, likely by November, Delk said.