Air­port author­ity to be formed soon

Author­ity will al­low longer land leases with com­pa­nies

The Covington News - - Front page - By Gabriel Khouli gkhouli@cov­

The Cov­ing­ton Mu­nic­i­pal Air­port will even­tu­ally be run by an air­port author­ity, but the city plans to make the tran­si­tion slowly.

The Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil dis­cussed the fu­ture of the air­port at a Thurs­day night work ses­sion and in­for­mally de­cided to be­gin ap­point­ing mem­bers to the author­ity soon.

City Man­ager Steve Hor­ton said Thurs­day that he had been strug­gling with the ques­tion of how to tran­si­tion con­trol from the city to an author­ity.

"My biggest con­cern was how do you just turn all this over to some­one and say ‘Here you go, it's yours.'" Hor­ton said. "And to­day, not hav­ing (had) con­trol of the op­er­a­tion for long, we don't what the rev­enue stream is and real ex­pense stream is. Twelve months from now we'll know a lot more than we do to­day."

City At­tor­ney Ed Crudup pro­vided a so­lu­tion by sug­gest­ing that the author­ity ini­tially be given own­er­ship of a small, 300-foot by 600-foot piece of land at

the air­port; its own­er­ship could slowly ex­pand over time.

The city is hop­ing to lease this va­cant piece to Stan­dridge Color Corp., so the com­pany can build one or two ad­di­tional hangars.

The ben­e­fit of the author­ity own­ing the land is that it could sign up to a 50-year lease with a com­pany, while gov­ern­ments can only lease land for 10 years at a time. A com­pany build­ing a han­gar would pre­fer the op­tion of a longer lease so it could take out a longer loan for the build­ing and have con­trol over the land for longer.

In ad­di­tion, As­sis­tant City At­tor­ney Frank Turner Jr. said a com­pany can­not bor­row against the value of a han­gar, if the han­gar is on land owned by the city.

Mayor Kim Carter said sev­eral peo­ple are in­ter- ested in serv­ing on the author­ity and have sub­mit­ted re­sumes. The coun­cil will con­sider the re­sumes and plan to ap­point mem­bers at ei­ther its Feb. 7 and Feb. 21 coun­cil meet­ing. Carter said she felt the author­ity should have a lawyer and mem­bers with ex­per­tise in bank­ing, con­struc­tion and cus­tomer ser­vice, in ad­di­tion to re­quired mem­bers with avi­a­tion ex­pe­ri­ence.

The city is still ac­cept­ing ap­pli­ca­tions, which can be sub­mit­ted via e-mail to Carter at kim­carter@city­of­cov­ing­ or Hor­ton at steve­hor­ton@city­of­cov­ing­ Mem­bers must be older than 21, have lived in Newton County for more than one year and never have been con­victed of a felony.

The state leg­is­la­ture ap­proved the for­ma­tion of the Cov­ing­ton Mu­nic­i­pal Air­port Author­ity dur­ing the 2010 ses­sion, but the city de­layed ap­point­ing mem­bers be­cause the fu­ture of the air­port was un­clear. The city termi- nated its con­tract with air­port man­ager Dixie Jet in Septem­ber and took over op­er­a­tion of the air­port in De­cem­ber.

The author­ity will be com­posed of seven mem­bers, at least two of which must have avi­a­tion ex­pe­ri­ence. Four mem­bers will serve 4-year terms and three mem­bers will be elected to 3-year terms to cre­ate stag­gered ap­point­ments.

The author­ity would be in­de­pen­dent from the city and be tasked with de­vel­op­ing the air­port and sur­round­ing land. The author­ity will have sim­i­lar rights to any pri­vate cor­po­ra­tion, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to pur­chase or lease land and other prop­erty, en­ter into con­tracts and bor­row and loan money. Once the author­ity is cre­ated, the city will no longer have con­trol over it, out­side of ap­point­ing new mem­bers.

In re­lated news, the city re­it­er­ated its plans to pur­sue a new ter­mi­nal build­ing and head­quar­ters at the air­port's south­east­ern end, near Nis­sh­inbo.

File photo/The Cov­ing­ton News

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