Covington may take over airport

COVINGTON - The city of Covington may take over operations of Covington Municipal Airport following an apparent breach of contract by current fixed-base operator Atlanta East Aviation.

According to City Manager Steve Horton, the city received notice on Aug. 17 that Atlanta East Aviation's insurance had lapsed as of July 24, a violation of the Airport Operating Agreement the operator has with the city.

Horton said he wrote a letter giving Atlanta East, which is owned by Dixie Jet Inc., 10 days to reinstate insurance.

Eleven days after the letter was delivered, insurance had not been restored, he said.

FBO Manager Rusty Anglin said the lapse was the result of an error on the part of an insurance underwriter. Once the error was discovered, he said the policy was reinstated and was made retroactive to July 24. The policy has been paid through January 2010, he said.

This is the second time in the past year that the policy has lapsed, according to Mayor Kim Carter. It previously lapsed in November 2008 and was reinstated in January of this year. Atlanta East Aviation also owes the city more than $6,000 in stormwater fees, she said.

"I guess there's just not a great business relationship there right now," she said.

Anglin said he would pay the stormwater fee if someone could explain why it was so high. He promised never to allow the insurance policy to lapse again.

"It won't happen again, not on my watch," he said.

But Councilman Mike Whatley made a motion to terminate the city's contract with Atlanta East.

"This is absolutely nothing personal," he told Anglin. "It's business."

City Attorney Ed Crudup said the city would likely need to temporarily take over operations of the airport until another fixed base operator can be found.

But Carter said that the city is one of only a handful that have an agreement with a fixed base operator, noting that most municipalities and counties operate their airports or operate them through an Industrial Development Authority, because, she said, airport development is tied to economic development.

Councilman John Howard asked if the city could handle the takeover if necessary.

"We can do what we have to do whether it's six months, six weeks or six days from now," Horton said, but asked for the council to allow him and Crudup to review the contract once more before making the termination final.

Whatley made his motion contingent upon a follow-up report from Horton and Crudup.

The vote was 4-1 with Councilwoman Janet Goodman opposed. Councilman Keith Dalton was absent.

"I guess my problem is, I hate to put somebody out of work," Goodman said.

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