Covington Mayor Sam Ramsey will bring forward a measure at Monday night's council meeting to vote on spending $5 million from the proceeds of the sale of Covington Cable on developing the Covington Municipal Airport.
Asked if the timing of Monday night's vote had anything to do with the city's municipal elections scheduled to take place the next day, Ramsey answered, "None whatsoever. This is something we would have done regardless of the election."
Some members of the community, including mayoral candidate Kim Carter, have speculated that the timing of the vote could be because the mayor and other supporters of the airport fear that after the election there will not be enough votes on the city council to approve the airport funding measure.
Ramsey said he was bringing the proposal forward so that the city's administration could plan accordingly for next year's city budget which they are currently working on.
"They need to start making some plans and so forth and they need to know where they stand," Ramsey stand. "Until we get these items nailed down we really don't know how to make up the budget for next year."
Mayoral Candidate Roger Tingler, who currently sits on the city council, has come out strongly in favor of developing the airport. Council Member Ocie Franklin has also voiced support of the idea.
While Council Member Mike Whatley, who is running for re-election, had previously voiced support for developing the airport with cable funds, at a recent candidate forum Whatley said he wasn't in any hurry to see the funds from the cable sale spent.
Council Member Janet Goodman, who is also up for re-election, has expressed reservations on the idea of developing the airport at this time. The views of Council Members John Howard and Hawnethia Williams are not known.
If the vote comes to a tie, the mayor of Covington has tie-breaking voting powers.
Ramsey formally introduced his airport funding proposal at a work session meeting for the council on Oct. 1. He proposed spending $2.8 million on the purchase of 85 acres of undeveloped land south of the airport from the Newton County Industrial Development Authority and $2.2 million on the running of water, sewer and a road through the purchased land to the airport.
On Oct. 15, members of the IDA came before the council to voice their support of the proposal as well. The IDA's board of directors includes Newton County Chairman Aaron Varner, Mayor Ramsey and Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce President John Boothby.
Claude Sitton, an Oxford resident who helped formulate Oxford's objection to the expansion of the airport's runway several years ago, said he expected many Oxford residents to be in attendance at Monday night's meeting. There is a common belief among many Oxford residents that the development of the airport will jeopardize the historical character of their city.
Also on the agenda to be voted on Monday night is measure to spend $3 million of the cable proceeds on fully funding the city's pension plan. This measure is expected to pass.
In addition a proposal to spend $3.58 million of the proceeds on paying off the city's most expensive short-term debt on bonds taken out before 2000 and on paying off the general obligation debt of a fire truck purchased for the city's Fire Department is also expected to pass.
"That will only leave the city of Covington with a debt that we spend on the sewer treatment facility which is already set up where our present rates should cover the debt and that's at a very good interest rate right now," Ramsey said.