Prior to investing additional funds in the development of the Covington Municipal Airport, the Covington City Council will commission an economic development impact study on the airport.
After comments of concern were raised by several council members at the city council's work session Monday afternoon, Covington City Manager Steve Horton said he would include funding in the city's six-month budget to pay for a study which would be commissioned at the beginning of 2008.
"I've yet to see any evidence showing it will be a benefit to the city," said Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams of the airport at Monday's meeting. "We need to show there's some evidence."
Contacted Tuesday, Horton said he was waiting to hear back from an engineering consultant on the estimated cost of the study.
"My hopes are that could happen in the first 90 to 100 days," said Horton of the study's timeline in 2008.
Horton said the study would specifically focus on what the city could expect as a return from its investment in the further development of the airport.
At the work session, Covington Mayor Sam Ramsey said he planned to bring forward a proposal at the Dec. 3 council meeting to spend $2.8 million from the proceeds of the sale of Covington Cable on the purchase of 85 acres of land from the Newton County Industrial Development Authority.
Once the IDA ceases to receive payments from SKC, as part of the arrangement which brought the company to Covington 10 years ago, the IDA is expected to be out of funds by 2009.
Horton said this would leave the responsibility of paying off the bonds to Covington since the city has backed the bonds.
To prevent matters coming to a head in such a way, Ramsey suggested that the city purchase the land now so as to leave the IDA with some money in the bank.
"It's much more valuable than if we had sold it five years ago," Horton said to the council. "I don't think you can hurt yourself as a local government by investing in the land."
Ramsey had previously brought forward a proposal to spend an additional $2.2 million from the cable proceeds on the running of utilities and a road through the undeveloped land to the airport.
At Monday's work session Ramsey - who only has one more month in office before his retirement and Mayor Elect Kim Carter takes his place as mayor - said it was difficult to estimate exactly how much it would cost to run utilities and a road through the land until an environmental assessment study had been done on the land.
"The plan is not in place yet. It is going to take another year," Ramsey said.