City Council to spend $6.5M of its cable revenue

COVINGTON - The Covington City Council agreed Monday night to spend an additional $6.5 million in cable system revenues.

The council voted to pay off all short-term debt with an interest rate greater than 4.5 percent, which totals $3,595,793. Another $3 million will be invested in the city's pension fund to bring it up to full funding.

The council did not discuss as scheduled whether to allot a portion of the money to the Covington Municipal Airport.

Mayor Sam Ramsey is proposing that $5 million of cable revenues be put in a fund used to pay off debt acquired by the Industrial Development Authority and for further development of the airport.

The authority has purchased two properties totaling more than $2.6 million from Nisshinbo Automotive Manufacturing Inc.

A 72-acre parcel was purchased in November 2002. The authority issued $1.95 million in bonds for that purchase at a 5 percent interest rate, according to the authority's attorney, Frank Turner Jr.

In July of this year, the authority purchased Nisshinbo's interest in 13.71 acres for $696,030. The property includes 2.15 acres for an access road into the airport, 7.5 acres for future economic development and 4.06 acres for a taxiway linking the previously purchased 72 acres to the airport.

The IDA gave 2.15 acres of the property to the city by right of way deed for creation of a second entrance to the airport.

Including interest payments totaling $390,780, the IDA has spent $3,036,810 on the properties.

Ramsey proposes spending $2.8 million to pay off debt and another $2.2 million "to do everything else that's going to have to be done to get the project moving.

"The next step is to get water and sewer run up to the southern side of the airport, and we've got to get a roadway built to get into that area," he said at an October council meeting.

An engineering study must also be completed on a development plan presented to the council by aviation consultants PBS&J, he said.

The plan for the first phase of the development includes T-hangers and corporate hangars, a new fixed based operator site and a new taxiway and ramp.

While the city can get state and federal assistance on certain aspects of the development, such as new taxiways, no such funds are provided for getting utilities to the property and construction of the roadway, Ramsey said.

About a dozen Oxford residents attended Monday night's City Council meeting expecting to hear more about the city's plans for the airport, but Ramsey delayed the vote, saying, "I want to have time to do this right."

Ramsey said Tuesday that he wanted everyone to have time to get all the facts about the proposal.

"I want everybody to have their say about something like that," he said. "We're in no big rush. The main thing we've got to do as a council is to let the Industrial Development Authority kind of know which direction we want them to go. The City of Covington is obligated for the debt of the Industrial Development Authority for the property we bought, and I just think it's a good idea to pay off that debt."

Oxford has long opposed any development of the airport. The runway lies adjacent to the city, and according to Oxford City Councilman Hoyt Oliver, 4 acres lie within city limits.

"I think we're all agreed that we don't want Covington to enter into major development that will further impact Oxford without giving consideration to what it's going to do to us," said Oliver, who was present at Monday night's meeting. "Just my personal opinion, and I won't try to speak for anybody else, I think it's necessary for there to be a second access opened up to the airport so traffic does not go through Oxford. For one thing, we have a no through trucks ordinance on our streets, so I do think a second access is necessary."

But Oliver added he doesn't believe the city will ever recoup any investment in the future development of the property.

The city sold Covington Cable TV in August to Charter Communications Inc. for $27,261,925.

After paying off the expense of the sale and the system's $2 million debt, the city was left with $22,951,702.62 in net proceeds.

The council previously agreed to allocate $980,000 of the cable money to purchase property for a homeless shelter.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.