COVINGTON — Newton County has signed a letter of support for the U.S. Highway 278 Community Improvement District master plan, committing $320,000 to the project from the county’s 2017 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenues.

Commissioners unanimously approved a letter of sponsorship for the project at their Oct. 1 meeting. According to Kathy Morgan, administrator for the Highway 278 CID, Newton County will be the lead sponsor on the project, with the city of Covington stipulated as the project manager. The city will also contribute $320,000 to the project, while the CID will contribute $600,000 from taxes it collects from businesses in the CID corridor.

The Covington City Council unanimously approved a letter of support for the master plan in September and also approved a letter stating that the city will commit to the maintenance of the landscaping and lighting costs for the plan.

Morgan said commitments from the city and county were necessary in order to move forward in the process of applying for a grant for the project through the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The CID master plan includes roadway improvements along a 3-mile stretch of Highway 278, from Ginn Motor Company to Martins Crossing shopping center. Improvements outlined by the DOT include two roundabouts — one at Turner Lake and Highway 278 and another at Emory Street and Highway 278. Other changes include extending a median the entire 3 miles of the CID, some additional “R” cuts with traffic signals.

The DOT has committed to spend between $20 — $25 million on the improvements.

“GDOT will start next year,” Morgan told the City Council last month. “First they have to complete the design and purchase the right of way. We only need a very minimum amount of right of way that has to be purchased, and that money can come from our grants or our matching dollars. They will work with us to get this started, and they should start turning dirt before the end of next year.

“Then the second phase may be from where they end at Emory Street to either Elm Street or to Mill Street. Then the next phase may be from Mill Street to Industrial Drive, depending on what is in their budget and how much they get in federal dollars.

“But they want you to commit to the whole thing so they can put this in their strategic plan and have the whole thing done over the next 10-15 years. Each phase will take three to five years.”

Senior reporter Larry Stanford contributed to this report.

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I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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