Airport now under city control

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The Covington Municipal Airport is now under control of the city of Covington and at least one major change has already occurred since the city took over: fuel prices have dropped.

City Manager Steve Horton reported to the council that the city is selling fuel at costs lower than those charged by the former fixed base operator, Dixie Jet Service Inc. Fuel prices are about 70 to 90 cents less per gallon, he said. For example, self-service, formerly priced at $5.299 per gallon, is now selling for $4.359. Full-service was at $5.599 and is now $4.629.

"We've sold fuel in the last several days to people we haven't sold fuel to in the last several years," Horton said.

Airport Engineer Vincent Passariello said Tuesday that's because the city's plan is to make up the sales through volume rather than price.

"Our business model is, we're selling service. In order to attract people to come to our airport, we've got to be competitive with price," Passariello said.

On Sunday, tenants bought fuel for four airplanes that have never before been fueled at the airport, although they are based there, Passariello said. Pilots have been flying to nearby airports, such as Madison, to buy fuel due to the high cost at Covington, he said.

Passariello said the city is in a position to buy more quantity and, therefore, get discounts on fuel. The previous FBO was purchasing only about 1,000 to 2,000 gallons at a time because he was having to pre-pay due to financial troubles. The city is able to buy 6,000 to 7,000 gallons at a time, he said.

The city has hired five employees to run the airport, keeping on former airport manager Rusty Anglin as a full-time supervisor. Four part-time employees have also been hired. Passariello said he's arranged for the Chamber of Commerce to train the employees on amenities in the area such as restaurants and shops so they can pass along that information to pilots. Pamphlets giving information about Covington will also be available at the airport, he said. He's also getting uniforms for the staff and has instructed them there is to be no smoking on airport grounds and to be courteous to all customers.

"We need to transmit how happy we are that you are here," he said, adding that the city's primary focus is safety, customer service and image.

Horton urged the council Monday night to get the airport authority approved nearly a year ago up and running. The authority's main purpose will be to acquire, construct, equip, maintain, operate and improve the airport and related facilities.

In other news, the council approved a budget amendment for the airport totaling $1.62 million. The budget amendment accounts for approximately 83 acres of land near the airport the city is purchasing at a cost of $710,000. The land is located north of the runway and is bordered by the airport and City Pond Road. It is being purchased from the Willis Family Partnership LLC for future economic development, Horton said.

"Other than Sims Chapel Church and their property, that's the only property we didn't own from Ga. Highway 142 to the creek at Oxford city limits," he said.

Another budget amendment was for more than $900,000 stemming from a settlement with the FBO for early termination of contract.