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Road rage: Citizens angry over failing roads

Ann Neuhierl shows an area of detiorating roadway in Villages at Ellington subdivision. The depth of the asphalt in this spot is less than the length of a dime. - Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Ann Neuhierl shows an area of detiorating roadway in Villages at Ellington subdivision. The depth of the asphalt in this spot is less than the length of a dime. - Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

COVINGTON -- Ann Neuhierl's neighborhood is less than a decade old. So she's upset that she has to drive around potholes and over cracked and sinking roadway to get to her house every day.

And she's not alone. One hundred residents of Villages at Ellington off Brown Bridge Road have signed a petition asking the Board of Commissioners to repair their roads. There are 124 homes in Villages at Elington and more than 700 in the three other subdivisions that make up the Ellington development - Springs at Ellington, and the two phases of the Silos of Ellington. Throughout all the subdivisions, "We've got roads that are absolutely disintegrating," Neuhierl said.

But there's no money in the county budget to fix the roads. The county did a small repair of potholes there last year at a cost of $30,000. But it would cost $750,000 to $1 million to make all the needed repairs, said Board of Commissioners Chairman Kathy Morgan. Only $300,000 was allocated for road repairs county-wide in the current budget, and there is no money, aside from a county match to a state funded resurfacing program, for repairs in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2013.

Neuhierl said it's financially irresponsible for commissioners not to allocate more funds for road repairs, and she'd even be willing to pay higher property taxes to get some roads fixed. While lack of funding for road repair is a problem, there's another issue at play. A soil-cement base was used for roads in the Ellington development. This type of base generally doesn't last as long as the graded aggregate, or gravel, kind, according to District 2 Commissioner Lanier Sims, who owns and operates an excavating company that builds roads.

Essentially, the base is made by taking soil and mixing it with cement powder and water. Though the base is allowed under Newton County regulations, Morgan and Sims say that might need to change.

"It would suit me to drop this as an option from the county as a road base. We need the roads built to be in place at least 15 years. We can't come in and repair these roads every six to seven years," Morgan said. She acknowledged that the base is fine for roads with few houses and little traffic. But in the Ellington subdivisions, there's about 2,000 trips per day.

Sims said in his experience, the base just doesn't hold up well over time.

"Once the asphalt breaks up or cracks, water starts to get in and the soil-cement base starts tearing apart. I've seen roads where potholes are starting and there's nothing under there but Georgia red clay," he said.

Sims wants to look at the specifications used for road construction by other counties and study the longevity of a graded aggregate base versus soil-cement base. Both he and Morgan said they'd like to bring the matter before the Board of Commissioners this year.

"We want to be friendly to development, but at the same time, protect the county in the long run. If this is not protecting our county, we need to get away from it," Sims said, noting that Falcon Ridge subdivision off Smith Store Road is another example of soil-cement base roads that are failing.

Another option would be to require coring, or drilling into the road to make sure the proper depth of base and asphalt was applied, a practice that's currently not required. Sims said in that case, the developer would have to pay for an outside company to come in and do the testing. When repairs were made in Ellington last year, workers discovered asphalt in some spots was just a quarter-inch deep.

Improper application of a soil-cement base can also be a problem.

"If you do it in perfect conditions, it's a great base, a great foundation for a road," Morgan said. "If the applicator doesn't do a good job or there's too much humidity or they're not diligent in the way they do it, it creates problems for us. It doesn't hold up consistently."

County Engineer Tom Garrett said, "The soil-cement method takes a little finesse to get it just right. Aggregate base is a little more forgiving."

But, "I wouldn't say the problem is confined or limited to soil-cement," Garrett said, noting that roads are also failing that have an aggregate base. "There are better standards in the county now as far as asphalt standards, and I don't anticipate having those kinds of problems in the future."

Garrett said the Georgia Department of Transportation is now promoting a new base called full-depth reclamation, which was recently used on a joint county/city of Covington project on Avenue of Champions. That method entails using a soil-cement base that also includes ground up bits of the old roadway.

Sims said with the slow down of development, now is the time for commissioners to address the issue, before growth picks up again in the wake of the announcement that Baxter International is locating in Stanton Springs. He said he'd like local developers to be part of the conversation.

While the county needs to be development-friendly, "I'd hate to put in new subdivisions that in 10 years or less need a million dollars in repairs," he said.

Morgan said she proposed $4 million worth of road projects that could be done right away during discussions about the fiscal year 2013 budget. But to do all those repairs it would have necessitated raising the millage by 2 mils, and commissioners weren't willing to place that burden on taxpayers.

"It just really comes down to dollars and cents," she said, noting that the budget has shrunk by $10 million during her three and a half year tenure.

"In years past, I've heard citizens say they'd be willing to pay more taxes for public safety, or recreation or the library, whatever their interest is. But this year I'm hearing more about infrastructure. You can defer maintenance a little, but if you continue to defer maintenance, it has a major impact to the community."

Comments

AmazedByStupidity 2 years, 6 months ago

Good luck on getting anything out of a developer. Most developers of 10 years ago went bankrupt in the last 5 years.

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John 2 years, 6 months ago

Certainly, strong & stringent building /road construction codes & inspections "might" alleviate this issue - depending how close the developer is to the inspector. Ms. Neurhiels subdivision is not the only one that has "pot holes" - the ones in this pic are small compared to the ones we have had in ours (for now all of ours have been patched)

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Neuhierl 2 years, 6 months ago

Amazed: I think you are right, hard if not impossible to take this cost back to the developer, whomever that might have been that built the roads. There was more than one who ended up being involved in our 767 homes.

John: You are right. We are one of many. We need stronger codes that include inspections by independent testing companies. They had to choose one picture. We tried to get pictures of the "alligatoring" of so many of our roads but it doesn't show up well in a photo. We have long stretches where the "alligatoring" is so bad, after it rains, the road turns red with the soil coming through the thin and broken asphalt.

With the exception of Lanier Sims and Kathy Morgan, the Newton County BOC is shirking their duty to our citizens by not maintaining our roads. They will soon realize that the "developers" don't control as many votes as the citizens who are not developers!

Our property values have crashed and a lack of good roads is making this worse. It will also impede the all important to the BOC "development" if the companies start looking at neighborhood roads before deciding to invest in our county.

It's completely irresponsible to think that keeping our millage rate the same with our property values at a fraction of what they should be will allow us to have a desirable standard of community infrastructure. Maybe the other BOC members and our County Manager should take a course in remedial math? Seems like they missed the part about 1 + 1 = 2.

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OnToday 2 years, 6 months ago

Don't criticize anyone over this. You might get sued.

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Silverbullet 2 years, 6 months ago

Tip of the iceberg. More to come. Developers who ran the county, via the commissioners, and got their way on most everything, are responsible for these conditions. BUT this is only a microcosm of the real problems. Try on building houses whose taxes will not support necessary services such as money for building new schools. The commissioners did nothing to improve traffic conditions for the influx and this example of failing roads with no money in the budget for repairs. Of course you also have to consider that Chairlady Morgan took a large sum of money out of her budget, (She and she alone is responsible for road repair in the County) and gave it to the Special Projects Manager, Cheryl Delk, to build a walking trail from the library to Eastside!! You could have fixed a lot of potholes with that money. And will anyone ever walk from Eastside to the library on this 'trail'? Probably not.

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Neuhierl 2 years, 6 months ago

You might want to double check this. Kathy Morgan tells me that she has information on $4 million in projects that need work (don't know if this includes us). Nancy Schulz, Commissioner District 3 and Lanier Sims, Commissioner District 2 are the onlyones I'm aware of besides Kathy Morgan that support money in the budget for road repairs.

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Billy 2 years, 6 months ago

Please pave Pace street, from the circle to Kroger. The intersection at the county bldg is worse than the former railroad tracks. This is basic; let's fix things like this first, make that person in the other article with a pond that's about to suffer a dam break pay for repairs to his propertly that threatens others properties. What a world!

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KimberlyD 2 years, 6 months ago

It's a shame....Cracker Jack road for Cookie-cutter homes. Guess ya get what ya pay for!! I feel sorry for the people whose roads are bad tho. and Billy, they just repaved Pace Street like 2 years ago.....

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Neuhierl 2 years, 6 months ago

Come to the BOC Meeting on Tuesday June 19th and have a say at 6:30 PM. We need to stand up and require money for roads from our Commissioners.

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PoolBoy 2 years, 6 months ago

Vote yes for the T-SPLOST and Chairman Morgan will get her $4M without having to raise the millage rate. Win/Win. Vote YES

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Neuhierl 2 years, 6 months ago

That money, as far as I know, is NOT earmarked for neighborhoods. I seem to remember hearing part of it will be for widening Salem Road from the County Line to Hwy 81? Also, we won't get that money right away.

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PoolBoy 2 years, 6 months ago

25% of the T-SPLOST goes to the County for whatever transportation project they want to spend it on. Salem Road and the other projects are in the 75% bucket.

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mgh1966 2 years, 6 months ago

The couty should have inspected what was done when it was bulit.

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mgh1966 2 years, 6 months ago

Poolboy nobody is stop you from writing a chech to the county if you want to. But Our Govt. is a run by 3 com that do not care about th3 2nd district. So We are going to ask the Stae to From a city of west Newton.

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PoolBoy 2 years, 6 months ago

OK, I live in District 2 also. So you're saying the new City of West Newton would not be in Newton County after it is formed? And all of the newly elected city council of West Newton are honest? Too bad they can't get around due to the traffic congestion on Salem Road. Vote YES for T-SPLOST

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juch 2 years, 6 months ago

Lack of building codes, foresight, poor judgment, self-serving politics, and cheap fixes have gotten us here. Let's get the facts straight. If I’m not mistaken, that trail actually began in 2005 (maybe earlier). Grant? It was originally solicited in the 2005 SPLOST. The 2005 BOC pursued this project and COMMITTED the county to $230,000(already spent 130,000) and City of Covington $225,000. Links Eastside High School to the library. Discussion was not “if” building a trail but quality and ongoing expenses. 2 options. Use asphalt, County assumes part of maintenance expenses and expect to be doing patchwork in 5 years – asphalt lifespan 20 years. Use concrete- Newton pays $57,000 more and City of Covington takes over security and 100% maintenance ongoing. Concrete: 30-50 year life span -little to no patchwork. Ewing and Fleming voted asphalt. Ahhh, no additional expense (today) but you pay at some point. Don't we know it! These 2 repeating the cycle of the very reason we are here. Haven't we learned? Schulz, Sims, Henderson voted for concrete. Morgan doesn't vote. Frankly (IMO), paying the $57,000 is worth getting out of ANY maintenance or security in the future which would most likely cost more that $57,000.

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John 2 years, 6 months ago

One thing concrete is guaranteed to do is crack from ground heave & contraction it will require maintenance in less than 30-50 years. Secondly, such a trail from Eastside HS to the library IMHO will have little traffic (i.e. very little population at either end) - benefit to Newton County almost nil. In other words, another spending boondoggle.

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Neuhierl 2 years, 6 months ago

Come to the Newton County Board of Commissioners Meeting on Tuesday, June 19th, at 6:30 PM and have your say.

How can we have a "BUDGET" for 2013 with NO MONEY FOR ROADS?

Please come and have a say.

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dennistay53 2 years, 6 months ago

Here lies the problem. Many homeowners have put pressure on the board to keep mils steady during the economic downturn. Yes- assessed property values have gone down for many, but for many it has not (inconsistent assessentments). Yes- the board could cut in other areas to free up some funds for roads. But overall the board has done a good job (as compared to the state average on county millage rates. While the county commissioners have tried to control cost, to some extent, The Newton County school board has kept spending, spending, spending. Newton county school system is one of only 8 county school system with millage rates above 20. Theirs is just below 22- higher than Cobb, Gwinnette and even Fulton as of 2011 posting. Well over 2/3 of homeowner tax dollars go to the school board. What needs to happen is for the board of commissioners as well as homeowners demand that the school board cut say 2mills of their budget so the board can go up 2 mil and use it for road repairs. I mean they shouldn't want their buses to have to carry our children over unsafe roads. Maybe pressure should be put on the liberal free spending school board as well

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mgh1966 2 years, 6 months ago

yes the assessentments are inconsistent I had a nieghbor smae hose bulit the same year they appraised his house for just the Lot for 10 years while I was paying the full ride. Told the county 4 times ove 10 years not unit I protested mine and used his assessentment did they take noticed. I was at 150000.00 when house where selling for 50000. I am tierd of give them money the roads that are falling apart were bulit by devolpers and the county passed the inspection with less than 1/2 inch of pavment.and when the 2nd and 3rd district were left out of the last SPLOST that should went for roads not a cow barn we do not need. I am Voting NO they should have done a better job when times were good we would not have these problems.

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PoolBoy 2 years, 6 months ago

So either complain about how bad it is and do nothing so it gets worse or pass the T-SPLOST and see progress. Vote YES

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ClaytonBigsby 2 years, 6 months ago

I'd like to say it's unbelievable that the County would accept a road like this from a developer, but it's not. Why not simply use GDOT Specifications? That would have gotten a nice GAB base, and it darn sure would have gotten some cores pulled. The developer could have passed the cost on to the homeowners; would have been minimal when spread over the number of lots.

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