Aircraft maker targets Covington site

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

A light sport aircraft-maker is scoping out land owned by the city near Covington Municipal Airport for a manufacturing plant.

The unidentified manufacturer submitted a request for information regarding 72 acres near the airport and the industry Nisshinbo for a 100,000-square-foot plant, City Manager Steve Horton told the council Monday. The plant would employ about 80 people initially, and that could increase to as many as 600 in a few years, Horton said.

The city has offered a sale price of $27,500 per acre. The manufacturer would not likely purchase the entire property.

"We may never hear another word ... but they wanted a firm number so we're giving them one," Horton said.

Mayor Kim Carter said the asking price "allows us not to lose any money but not make any big profit. We're hoping the prospect will like our proposal."

The company makes personal aircraft for one to two people and is expected to reach a decision on a plant location around mid-year, said Shannon Davis, economic development director with the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

"It would be a good boon to the economy," she said.

The City Council gave formal approval of the offer Monday night by a vote of 5 to 1, with Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams opposed.

In other news, the council is considering amending its ordinance addressing unfit dwellings. The amendment under consideration would allow the council to order a condemned building to be demolished if the cost to repair the building exceeds 50 percent of its value.

The provision was in a prior ordinance but was removed when a new ordinance was passed in 2008. The issue came to light during recent discussions about how to address blight in the city, Carter said. The council approved the first reading of the ordinance Monday. Final approval is expected at the Feb. 21 meeting.

Finally, the city has been awarded a $443,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to replace water lines and install fire hydrants along Geiger Street and nearby North Banks, Hudson, Need, Moore, W. Durden, E. Durden and Maddox streets. Some of the lines are more than 75 years old.

The total project cost is $553,000, with the city paying $110,000. At least $28,000 will cover the city's administrative costs, and will be in-kind service rather than cash contribution, said the city's grant writer, Randy Conner. Another $8,200 will be applied toward upgrading lines from 6 to 8 inches.

The city fell just short of meeting the required criteria to receive a grant in 2010. DCA notified the city last month that additional money was available and because the council recently approved funding of the engineering work on the project, it qualified as shovel-ready, the main reason it was selected, Conner said. The project is expected to begin in July.