BOC tables SPLOST consultant proposal

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- County commissioners have tabled a request by Chairman Kathy Morgan to hire a transportation consultant at a cost of up to $111,000 to prioritize road projects to be included on the 2011 SPLOST and to help Newton County prepare for changes in transportation funding due to recent action on the state level.

Morgan made the proposal at the BOC's Oct. 19 meeting, and it was tabled pending discussions at a SPLOST work session set for 5 p.m. tonight at the Newton County Historic Courthouse located at 1124 Clark St.

Under the proposal, transportation consultants URS would prioritize projects to be included on the SPLOST referendum and conduct a separate prioritization analysis for projects that could be funded through House Bill 277, also known as the Transportation Investment Act of 2010.

The bill divides the state into 12 regions, with a group of elected officials to create a list of projects for the region, which will be submitted to voters for approval in a referendum. Because the issue will not be on the ballot until 2012, Commissioner Mort Ewing said that work can wait, but SPLOST projects should take priority, as they will go before voters next March.

However, Ewing said the county has already done extensive studies that involved transportation prioritization and coupled with Morgan's knowledge as chairman of roads and the person in charge of public works, along with staff's input, that should be adequate to prioritize projects without having to spend additional funds.

"From my perspective, it appears we're talking about spending money we don't have for information we don't need," Ewing said.

Funding for the SPLOST work would come from the public works budget to be reimbursed through the portion of SPLOST revenues that pay for administrative costs, Morgan said.