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County approves public works evaluation
County could hire civil engineer by end of week
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Update, Tuesday 8:35 p.m.: The Newton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a $31,541 contract with engineering firm Moreland Altobelli Associates Tuesday night, to evaluate the structure of the county's public works department. For more information view the original story below.

In other board news, Chairman Kathy Morgan announced that the board was working to finalize a SPLOST committee. Chamber President Hunter Hall and former Georgia Rep. Denny Dobbs were named co-chairman of the committee, though no other details were given at Tuesday's meeting, which only last 15 minutes.

Original Story, July 12: Newton County is planning to hire an engineering consulting firm to evaluate the structure and efficiency of the county's public works department and assist in implementing any changes.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on a $31,541 contract with the engineering firm Moreland Altobelli Associates at its Jan. 18 meeting.

The public works and water resources departments were consolidated to increase efficiency following budget cuts the county made in July.

Morgan said Tuesday that the county's public works employees are sometimes confused by the Georgia Department of Transportation's processes and terminology. For instance, the state grades road differently from counties, and the two are not always on the same page.

The contract with Moreland Altobelli calls for two engineers to spend 512 hours with the county during the next six months, studying the department's efficiency, manpower and equipment.

The engineers will also help the county make an assessment of its pavement conditions, drainage structures, pavement marking, signage, guardrails and other roadway conditions.

Morgan said creating a list of all the county's roads, including their condition and all repair work done to them, will allow the county to better schedule repairs and identify trends. For example, if a road is continually developing potholes, there may be an underlying problem to the foundation.

The county will be charged $12,201 for the 512 hours of work. The remainder of the contract fee, $19,340, includes a 135 percent overhead charge and a 10 percent fixed fee. At the board of commissioners Jan. 4 meeting, Commissioner Mort Ewing said the overhead cost seemed high and asked whether that was a normal rate. Morgan said Tuesday that the rate is the same one the company has charged since the board first approved a payment rate contract with Moreland Altobelli in 2006.

Also Tuesday, Morgan said that the county could hire a civil engineer to run the combined department as early as this week. The new department head would be expected to find solutions to internal engineering problems and work with outside consulting firms, such as Moreland Altobelli.