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Eastside trail to be built with concrete
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The Newton County Board of Commissioners narrowly passed a motion by a 3-2 vote to give the Library to Eastside Trail almost $58,000 to complete the project, with Commissioners Mort Ewing and Tim Fleming opposing.

The city of Covington agreed to cover 100 percent of the security and maintenance costs of the trail if the county paid for part of the cost of concrete instead of asphalt. While asphalt would only cost about $22,000, the city of Covington said it would not cover the total cost of the security and maintenance for the trail if the trail were asphalt.

Initially, the commissioners were concerned about where the funds would come from. However, Chairman Kathryn Morgan stated that the funds were available in the county's capital improvement fund. In the past, the board allotted $230,000 for the project, but have only spent $131,000 on the project to date, Morgan said. The project was first approved in 2005. Between 2006 and 2009, the county has spent $131,000 on the project's design, right-of-way acquisition and other project related expenses.

Due to changes to the financial code, auditors instructed Morgan any project approved - past or present - by the Board of Commissioners must be listed as encumbered projects to retain the money in the Public Works capital improvement funds, Morgan said in an email.

"After discovering that Mr. [John] Middleton had not set aside the monies approved by the Board of Commissioners for this project in 2006, I added this project to the encumbered Public Works capital improvement fund," Morgan said in an email.

Commissioner Nancy Shulz said it was important for the board to keep its pledge to support the project.

"From my perspective, if the Board of Commissioners prior to us...designated this as an important project to have and set aside funding, I think that we have an obligation to fund it," Commissioner Shulz said.

Commissioner Fleming said he felt it was in the best interest of the county's citizens to choose the asphalt option because it was most cost effective.

"It'll save the county about $47,000 that we can use for much other needed transportation projects, patching or whatever we have...that needs to be done," Fleming said, making a motion to fund the asphalt option which was seconded by Commissioner Ewing.

However, Commissioner Schulz was concerned about the long term costs of using asphalt if it was chosen, drawing on the experience of having to repave portions of paths at The Oaks Golf Course which she and her husband own.