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Posted: July 25, 2010 12:00 a.m.

Airport operation work session to take place Tuesday

Dixie Jet Owner Bob Riddell, who operates the Covington Municipal Airport, asked the city council to consider a new operating agreement, because he said the broad early termination clause makes him wary of investing in the airport’s future.

"We kind of have a cloud over our head… to be able to pull our lease without cause," Riddell said.

He said it’s difficult to convince corporations to invest, by say building a large hangar, if the company doesn’t know how long their lease will last and whether they’ll be able to recoup their investment. This is a concern because the hangars eventually revert to the city’s control.

Mayor Kim Carter said she understood the concern, but asked how the new operating agreement would benefit the city. Riddell said in exchange for removing the early termination clause, Dixie jet would pay the city a fuel flowage fee. He said the city could receive 10 cents per every gallon sold of Jet A fuel and 5 cents per gallon sold for AvGas fuel; the specifics are negotiable.

In a typical year, Dixie Jet Manager Rusty Anglin said the FBO sells around 12,000 gallons, which would equate to $1,200 per year. However, he said the airport has been shut down for construction during much of the past two years since the export runway was expanded. Once the latest round of construction is finished, traffic is expected to increase. Riddell said he expected fuel sales to double within two years.

Carter has made it known that she is interested in having the city take control of the operation of the airport via the recently formed Covington Municipal Airport Authority. The council has previously considered terminating the city’s contract with Dixie Jet on two separate occasions. Carter said in September that the fixed-base operator model was outdated.

However, she agreed the topic deserves another work session, which is scheduled for noon, Tuesday at city hall.

• The Covington City Council is planning to complete its three-year strategic planning process by having a second three-day retreat this year at The Oaks Golf Course on Aug. 27, 30 and 31.

The council will once again use facilitators Frank and Alysin Foster of The Centre for Strategic Management at a cost of $5,000, according to City Manager Steve Horton, who said he did not yet have a cost for renting The Oaks’ facilities.

The council gave their consensus for the meeting at the end of Monday’s council meeting, but Horton said in a follow-up e-mail that he was able to approve the training himself because the cost is less than $20,000.

He said the structure will build on the planning retreat taken at the FFA Camp in March, where the council learned how to strategically plan by identifying the city’s key stakeholders and some of its problem areas, as well as discussing the city’s previous accomplishments.

However, Horton said that discussion was fairly broad and was merely an introduction to the process of strategic planning. This next session will go more in-depth on how to create a plan and will prompt the city to solidify a planning team and set deadlines for completion.

The retreat in March was previously a source of contention, mainly because two members of the council and some residents took exception to the council originally planning to hold the retreat out of town at Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa at an original lodging cost of around $2,000. The facilitation fee for the March retreat was originally $5,000, but the Fosters reduced the cost to $2,000 to alleviate contention over price.

City officials chose The Oaks Golf Course in an effort to support a variety of local businesses.

• Troy University is considering a move from the old R.L. Cousins High School to downtown Covington’s Historic Delaney Hotel. The university is currently negotiating with owner Phil Stone, said Bob Bertram, Troy’s director for North Georgia.

He said in a phone conversation that moving downtown to the 1160 Monticello St. location would give the university more visibility than its current location on Geiger St.

"Where we’re located now, we don’t get much drive-by traffic. Being downtown will give us much more visibility and will also give the students places to eat during breaks and I think the teachers will find shopping on the square unique," Bertram said.

Before Troy could even begin negotiations, the university had to get a Special Use Permit from the City of Covington. The city’s current ordinance requires any university structure to be on a minimum of three acres per land. Both the planning commission and city council found no need for this limitation, and the city council unanimously approved a first reading Monday to remove it from the ordinance.

City Planning Director Randy Vinson said studies have proven that university are great community partners. Councilman Chris Smith asked if there would be sufficient parking, and Bertram replied there would. Bertram said classes are mainly at night and on the weekend.

He said Troy has been in Covington for eight years, and primarily focused on graduate programs, including online degrees, but has begun expanding its undergraduate offerings.

• The city council also approved the first reading of an ordinance that would allow vendors to sell food and drink on public sidewalks around the square during all specially permitted events.

• In an effort to streamline the process, the Georgia Department of Transportation, City of Covington and The Vampire Diaries have worked on a blanket permit to allow the show to periodically interrupt traffic around the square. On a trial basis, The Vampire Diaries crew will be allowed to intermittently control and reroute traffic, with assistance from the Covington Police Department, as needed from July 13 through Jan 15, 2011 from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

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