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Posted: March 2, 2011 12:00 a.m.

Airport authority names chairman

Monthly meeting dates set

The Covington Municipal Airport Authority elected officers and set its meeting schedule in its inaugural session on Monday.

Former 16-year Covington Councilman John Howard was selected as chairman of the authority. Wayne Digby was named vice chairman and Tereta Johnson was selected treasurer and secretary.

Under authority bylaws, those three positions are to be appointed annually in April, so the initial nominations could be temporary, one-month stints.

The authority also decided that it will hold monthly meetings at 6:30 p.m. on first Thursdays at the airport. The first regular meeting will be held April 7.

The seven members appointed to the airport authority began the meeting by introducing themselves. They are:

Wayne Digby: Oxford police officer and former Porterdale police chief. He said he has used the Covington airport since 1976 and has logged thousands of hours as a flight instructor.

John Howard: Howard served on the Covington City Council for 16 years and spent many years on the city's Airport Advisory Committee.

Tereta Johnson: Johnson works for Epps Aviation, the fixed-base operator for DeKalb-Peachtree Airport in Atlanta. The company leases hangar space and provides aicraft maintenance, fueling and other services. Johnson said she has often wondered why the Covington airport wasn't growing and wants to help.

James Knight: Knight worked with the U.S. Coast Guard's helicopter unit in search and rescue operations. He said his business travels have taken him to many general aviation airports around the country.

Charles Hill Morris Jr.: Morris is the publisher of The Covington News and has used Covington's airport for about six years he said. He hangars a company plane at the airport and feels the airport is an underutilized asset.

Jared Rutberg: Rutberg owns two local businesses and flew Blackhawk helicopters for the U.S. military in Afghanistan and dealt with airport issues including airspace and traffic patterns.

Art Schlueter III: Schlueter has logged hundreds of hours of flying and has flown out of Covington for about five years. He said that many people judge a city by their first impression of it, the airport.

City Manager Steve Horton gave the members a brief history of the airport, which has been in the community since before the 1950s. The runway was extended from about 3,000 square feet to 4,200 square feet at some point in the 1980s and then to 5,500 square feet in 2006 for $4 million.

The rehabilitation of the older part of the runway in 2010 cost $3 million. Horton shared the numbers with the authority to give them a sense of how much it costs to maintain and upgrade an airport.

The authority is an independent entity. It owns no land and has no real power at this point, but over time, the city will either gift or sell land to the authority.

The authority will first be given ownership of a 300-foot by 600-foot lot at the airport. That plot will be leased to Standridge Color Corp. so the company can build an additional hangar for a third plane it wants to keep at the airport.

The benefit of the authority owning the land is that it could sign up to a 50-year lease with a company, while governments can only lease land for 10 years at a time under state law. A company building a hangar would prefer the option of a longer lease so it could take out a longer loan for the building and have control over the land for longer.


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