• In other news from Monday night’s Covington city council meeting, the city approved using an old $265,648 federal sidewalk grant and $175,412 in local match funds to build sidewalks along Clark Street from Carroll Street to the planned roundabout. In-kind services, or planning and other work done by city officials, can be counted toward the local match.
The grant has been moved to different sidewalk projects over the past couple of years. The city wanted to use it to improve West Street, but Transportation Manager Billy Skinner said federal officials told him environmental studies would delay the project and purchasing right-of-way would greatly increase costs. The city currently has less than $100,000 in its sidewalk fund, so the budget would have to be amended if in-kind services do not cover enough of the $175,412 of local match for the Clark Street project.
In addition, City Manager Steve Horton said West Street area resident Emogene Williams told him that her main concern was getting curb and gutter in the area, not necessarily sidewalks. Residents have long wanted to see improvements made to West Street, and Horton said he would try to budget some money for curb and gutter in next year’s budget.
Sidewalks for Clark Street were attractive to elected officials because they would tie a lot of the city to Turner Lake Recreation Park, once the roundabout and its underground pedestrian tunnels were completed. Councilman Keith Dalton said this would be especially important if the school system eliminated middle school athletics. In addition, Mayor Kim Carter said many residents could use the sidewalks to walk more easily to K-Mart and other retail stores.
As far as when construction will start on the roundabout, Skinner said no work will start until the contractor turns in his notice of intent to the state. He said he didn’t know why this hadn’t happened or when it would happen.
• Work is moving forward on the creation of the Newton County History Center, which would be located in the old historic jail. The council approved providing a $25,000 local match to allow the project to receive a $50,000 state grant. The money has been budgeted since 2005, when the grant was initially written.
In related news, The Friends of the Museum will be holding another cemetery tour this year on Oct. 14 inside the Southview Cemetery, which is located at the end of Davis Street. The proceeds will go toward the museum project.
• The Covington Police Department will purchase 29 bulletproof vests for a total cost of $22,649, which will come out of forfeited funds. Police Chief Stacey Cotton said vests have an average lifespan of five years and with all of the recent discussion surrounding the InVest campaign, the CPD decided to study which vests would be best to buy. Officers could choose between level II ballistic vests and level IIIa vests; many chose level II vests because of their mobility.
• According to a report by the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia, this winter was 21 percent colder than average, and the coldest winter since 1977-78. Gas usage was at a record high and, therefore, costs were at a record high, despite the fact gas prices were 10 percent lower than last year.