Jail project continues to move ahead

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The transformation of the historic jail on Stallings Street into a history museum continues to creep along. Another hurdle was cleared recently, as county commissioners approved a $269,400 bid from Beatty Construction Company of Austell to do structural improvements and exterior work on the building.

The work will include installation of a porch, a new roof and new windows, doors and gutters, and other improvements, and will be paid for out of special purpose local option sales tax revenues. Beatty Construction was the low bidder out of four qualified bids.

It's been five years since collections began on the 2005 SPLOST, which allocated $500,000 toward the project. Thus far, $133,000 has been spent for non-historic demolition and stripping off the exterior paint on the building, according to Special Projects coordinator Cheryl Delk.

Work on the project has been delayed as SPLOST revenues trickled in. The death of the original architect for the project also created a delay. A new architect, Ron Dimery of Dimery and Associates of Oxford, has been hired.

"This was not a bonded project. We had to wait for SPLOST dollars to accrue ... There were multiple projects trucking along at the same time," Delk said. "We did the administration building and the infrastructure projects first, and we were waiting for this money to accrue."

Within the next month, installation of a kiosk highlighting historic places in the county will be installed in front of the jail and the next phase of work will begin.

Delk has requested an additional $1.2 million on SPLOST 2011 to complete the project and pay for start-up costs. In addition to the non-historic demolition, and the work to be performed by Beatty Construction, the current SPLOST is covering architectural, engineering and legal costs, as well as environmental abatement.

Numerous individuals and organizations have also made donations to the project, including $10,000 by the Newton County Historical Society; $2,000 from Bonanza Productions, the production company behind "The Vampire Diaries;" $1,700 in individual donations; $500 from Tyler Perry Productions; and $700 from Scenes of Newton art show. Donations were also made from proceeds of ticket sales to the Voices of the Past Cemetery Tour hosted by the Historical Society and the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

"We are excited to have the opportunity to save and reuse our beautiful historic structures in Covington," Delk said.