Lake Varner is one of the county’s most scenic gems, and the county is continuing to invest in making the reservoir and fishing lake a recreational destination.
Newton County Water Resources, the county’s water department, is applying for a state grant to replace some dilapidated playground equipment at the reservoir and rebuild part of the handicap-accessible fishing pier.
The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to allow the water department to apply for a Georgia Department of Natural Resources grant that would provide up to $25,000 if the county also provides $25,000.
Water Resources Director Jason Nord said the wooden playground is about 20 years old, and several sections have deteriorated over the years and been removed, including the ramp that made the playground handicap-accessible.
Several other repairs have been made as well. Nord told the board the playground upgrade could cost $25,000 to $40,000, depending on the type of equipment purchased.
As for the fishing pier, Nord said an engineer has determined that the structure is sound, but the pier needs a new deck and railings. Nord said the pier work could cost $28,000 to $50,000.
The water budget – which is funded exclusively through wholesale water sales, not any public taxes – has $100,000 this year for capital improvements to Lake Varner, he said.
Commissioner Levie Maddox visited Lake Varner Monday and said the water department has done a great job with the area around the reservoir.
The county installed two open-air pavilions at the reservoir late last year at a cost of $40,977.
The 850-acre Lake Varner, which was constructed in the 1990s, is the county’s main drinking-water reservoir. Located on Alcovy Road, the lake is used for fishing and electric and paddle boating, but swimming is not allowed.
When asked about the reservoir’s level, Nord said it is at 696 feet, not far from its 701-foot full pool level. The abundant summer rain has helped; two years ago the reservoir was down about 12 feet at this time, Nord said.
For the year, Covington has received 45.06 inches of rain, more than 2012 (30.09 inches) and 2011 (34.45), according to GeorgiaWeather.net.
However, the area has been much drier than normal since August, as the county has seen 3.82 inches of rain, far less than last year (9.12 inches) and 2011 (10.02).