City airport authority to go forward

COVINGTON -- The City Council authorized the city attorney to move forward with creating an airport authority Monday night, and agreed to let the current fixed-base operator remain in place for the time being.

City Attorney Ed Crudup will draft "the necessary language to create an airport authority," said City Manager Steve Horton. "(The council) can then review the document and make comments/recommendations for change and/or vote to move ahead with the creation of the authority."

At recent work sessions council members have appeared to be at a consensus that formation of an authority to manage the airport would be beneficial.

Crudup said a majority of airports in communities the size of Covington are run by authorities, which act as a separate entity from the local government with their own bylaws and have the ability to sell bonds and generate revenue for capital improvements.

The city would still retain ownership of the property and assets and may have representation on the authority, he said. Formation of an authority would require an act of the General Assembly, he said.

Part of the authority's duties would be to carry out plans for future development of the airport that have been proposed in the Airport Layout Plan and the city's Capital Improvements Plan.

Mayor Kim Carter has said it's important for the city to have control over future growth at the airport because of its potential as an economic development engine for the area.

There has also been discussion in recent weeks about terminating the city's contract with FBO Dixie Jet Services Inc. But the council did not take any action toward that end.

"We're going to continue to pursue economic development at the airport, and put that in a holding pattern for now, no pun intended," Carter said.

Dixie Jet President Bob Riddell said Tuesday that he's thrilled the city has opted to keep the contract in place and that he looks forward to working with city officials and the future airport authority.

"I'm very excited and very optimistic about our future partnership," Riddell said.