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Posted: February 15, 2011 9:46 p.m.

County discusses SPLOST road projects

The county has hundreds of millions of dollars in road projects it wants to complete over the next several years, making it a challenge to choose only $17.28 million worth of projects to complete with SPLOST funds if the 2011 SPLOST is passed in March.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners reviewed key elements of the county's comprehensive transportation plan Tuesday night at a work session, in an effort to decide which projects should be paid for with SPLOST funds. The 130-plus page comprehensive transportation plan describes how the county wants to improve transportation in the next several years.

Tuesday night, Chairman Kathy Morgan focused on the list of county' five year plan and its list of critical projects. The seven critical projects alone, including widening of Brown Bridge, Covington Bypass, Crowell and Salem roads, would cost $116 million, with about $41 million of that being local money, while the state or federal government would pay for the rest.

The mid-range and long-range projects have an estimated $448 million worth of local match money, according to the plan. The budget of the county's public works department, which is responsible for road repairs and improvements, is only around $4 million annually.

The board did not approve a list of roads Tuesday night. Chairman Morgan will compile a list containing $17.28 million in road projects and present it to the board later. County attorney Jenny Carter said the board does not have to choose a list before the SPLOST election. The language "road, street, bridge and transportation projects for Newton County," which appears on the ballot, is specific enough at this time.

District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing said he would like Morgan to choose road projects on the county's critical list, and to choose projects on which the county has already started work, including preliminary designs. He said he was troubled by the state's tendency to constantly delay providing promised funding for critical projects.

In related news, the county has about $5 million of remaining, unused 2005 SPLOST transportation money. Morgan requested to use the money to make improvements to three roads: Alcovy Trestle, Crowell and Gaithers. All three projects were among the list included on the 2005 SPLOST list. The board voted Tuesday to proceed with those projects.

For more information continue to check or read Wednesday's edition of The Covington News.

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