Airport authority appointed

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The City Council appointed members of the Covington Municipal Airport Authority on Monday night.

The seven members are: Wayne Digby; John Howard; James Knight; Tereta Johnson; Charles Hill Morris Jr.; Jared Rutberg; and Arthur E. Schlueter III.

Digby, Howard, Knight and Johnson will serve four-year terms, with Morris, Rutberg and Schlueter serving three-year terms.

"Initially, the newest and smallest identified land parcel just east of the existing apron will be turned over to the Authority. The Authority will be able to provide one or more ground leases off of the available site from which they will receive rent/lease revenues," said City Manager Steve Horton.

"Next, as I currently believe things to be, the city will continue to work to develop the new entrance, terminal, hangar space, etc., at the southeast end of the runway and when complete, it will be turned over to the Authority.

"Lastly, will be elected official action to transition to the Authority the site where the current terminal, tie downs, and hangars are located. At some point during all these phases of transition, the elected officials will likely work with the Authority to establish some reoccurring revenue stream back to city," he said.

The first meeting of the Authority is scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. Monday at the airport.

Authority members must be residents of Newton County for at least one year, with at least two having expertise in aviation. They must also be at least 21 years old and not have been convicted of a felony.

Members will receive compensation set by the authority and paid by authority funds. The authority will make its own rules and regulations. The authority will also annually elect its own chair, vice chair, secretary and treasurer. It will hold public hearings on its own initiative or at the request of residents affected by the actions of the airport. The authority will be subject to open meetings and records laws.

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.

Discussion of appointment of authority members took place in executive session, with the vote held in open meeting.

The council also attempted to go into executive session to discuss appointments of members of various city committees and boards, but after the Citizen objected, the discussion was held in open session.

The Open and Public Meetings Law allows government bodies to enter into closed session for discussion or deliberation of appointments, employment, compensation, hiring, disciplinary action, dismissal or evaluation of a public officer or employee.

City Attorney Ed Crudup agreed that citizen volunteers who serve on city boards and committees do not qualify as public officials.

Councilman Keith Dalton requested that in the future, the City Council vote on all appointments, with the exception of those to the Housing and Redevelopment authorities, which the mayor is obligated to make according to state law. Dalton said all council members should submit names and discuss the appointments before taking a vote.

The mayor had solicited names from the council before making her appointments. Carter said she thought that gave the council an opportunity to give input. However, she said she does not disagree with the new procedure.

"I think that's great. The more names the better," she said.

Dalton recommended tabling the list of appointees the mayor brought before the council Monday, but Carter said she had already called those people, with permission from the council.

"I'm a little embarrassed to call these people back who've already agreed to serve," she said.

The council agreed to accept the list as recommended by the mayor and follow the new procedure going forward. The list of appointees could not be obtained from City Hall by press time.