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City losing transportation leaders
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When Billy Skinner retired as Covington’s transportation manager earlier this year, the city planned to hand the reins to his right-hand man of eight years, Terry Savage. However, when the city offered another early retirement option, Savage decided he’d had a full career, too.

Savage will leave at the end of the year, leaving the city to move forward without the only two men who have ever held their respective jobs.

Taking on transportation

Covington formed the transportation department in 2006, moving Skinner and Savage, who had just been hired in November 2005, from the engineering department. Skinner was the department manager, while Savage was the lone transportation technician.

While the street department works with the day-to-day maintenance of sidewalks and roads, including mowing, removing limbs from right of way, painting, the transportation department is more of the big-picture planning arm. Over the years, Skinner and Savage have planned the expansion of the sidewalk system and scheduled and prioritized repairs to roads.

They’ve also been the ones answering citizens’ questions and concerns.

"We get the requests for speed humps, lowering speed limits (and) putting up no parking signs," said Savage, noting one person asked for a sign telling people to use their turn signals.

They also handled requests to add or change parking and handled part of the permitting process for events and filming that closes down streets, which can be time-consuming.

But the city has more transportation options than roads alone. The Covington Municipal Airport has grown over the years and is only expected to develop more. The city now has a dedicated airport engineer, Vincent Passariello, but the transportation department still participates in planning and projects.

"We do everything from cemeteries to airports," Savage said. The city no longer sells lots in either of its cemeteries, but people still call the city asking where their family lot is and whether there’s room to bury anyone. "We tell you how many people are already there and let you decide," he said.

Moving forward

Brad Stoothoff was recently promoted from the engineering department to transportation technician (read Sunday’s paper for a brief profile on Stoothoff).

Once Savage leaves, Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon said that he, Stoothoff and Reginald Anderson, another engineering employee who has been brought in the loop over the past several months, will handle the work.

The city is expecting to put out the call for a new transportation manager.

Savage said the biggest issue facing the city moving forward is repaving streets and keeping them in good condition, a common issue that affects all governments.

Savage said the city gets less money from the state now, and much of the 2011 SPLOST money was dedicated to paving streets in newer subdivisions that were never completed by developers who went bankrupt after the housing market crashed.

Some major streets could need paving in the next handful of years, including some of the bigger, wider streets like Floyd and Conyers streets and Newton Drive, which have dedicated bike lanes, making them more expensive to pave and paint.

Paving isn’t the only concern, because a street can only be repaved so many times, before all of the asphalt has to be milled back down and the process starts over, Savage said.

Continuing to expand the sidewalk system is a priority and a seemingly never-ending process, Savage said.

"One of the drawing cards for young, upper-level folks is walking and biking options," Savage said.

He said he doesn’t see a whole lot of new roads that would have to be installed any time soon, but said one project could be extending Williams Road from City Pond Road to Alcovy Road. There’s no plan on the books at the moment, but Savage said the extension could provide a future benefit.

The major projects would likely be state-driven widenings, including on U.S. Highway 278 from Ga. Highway 142 north to Ga. 142 south, which will eventually be home to a roundabout. Ga. Highway 142 north will eventually be widened from Home Depot to Nisshinbo Drive. Alcovy Road, could also be widened from Harland Drive to a little past the Ga. 142 intersection.

Savage has worked to compile a list of all current projects , from those in the planning stage to those under construction, and he came up with 27 projects from small striping projects to sidewalk installations to major road widenings.