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Airport authority vote set

COVINGTON -- The City Council is expected to vote on the formation of an airport authority to oversee the Covington Municipal Airport at its Monday night meeting.

The council has received a draft of the proposed local legislation that would be presented to the Georgia General Assembly for approval at its Dec. 21 meeting.

They agreed it may need to be tweaked further -- one of the changes Mayor Kim Carter said she would like to see is compensation for authority members. As currently written, authority members would not be compensated, but would receive reimbursement for expenses incurred during the performance of their duties. Carter said compensating members would attract higher caliber people to serve on the authority. City Manager Steve Horton said the salaries would not be an expense to the city, but to the authority itself.

According to the draft document, the Covington Municipal Airport Authority would consist of seven members appointed by the council -- four to serve four-year terms and three to serve three-year terms. To qualify, a person must be at least 21 years of age, a resident of Newton County for at least a year and have not been convicted of a felony.

Members are not allowed to have any financial interest, profit or benefit in any contract, work or business of the authority, except by approval of the council.

The authority will elect its own chairman, vice chairman, secretary and treasurer annually. Its meetings are required by law to be open to the public, and it will hold public hearings on its own initiative or at the request of residents affected by the actions of the airport.

The authority's main purpose is to acquire, construct, equip, maintain, operate and improve the airport and related facilities. The authority will also be able to accept loans and grants, borrow money and issue tax-exempt negotiable revenue bonds. The revenue bonds would not constitute a debt of the city or county or require a pledge of faith on the credit of either.

"The Airport Authority would be, in effect, free from political pressure," Crudup said.

He added that time is of the essence, noting that the authority must be formed by act of local legislation in the General Assembly, which convenes in January.

"I can't imagine why we wouldn't be happy to do that. The airport out there is a diamond in the rough," said State Sen. John Douglas, R-Social Circle, who attended the Dec. 21 meeting.

Horton said the city is expecting reimbursement from the state and federal government on property purchased by the city at the airport. When that happens, the money would be reimbursed to the city and not the authority, he said.