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City not terminating airport contract
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Dixie Jet Service will continue to operate the Covington Municipal Airport, at least for the time being, after the city council decided it would not cancel the current contract.

"I think at this time, unless someone has a compelling reason otherwise, let’s put this at a holding pattern for now," Mayor Kim Carter said Monday evening, adding that the city will continue to investigate growth and investment opportunities at the airport.

In related news, the council voted to approve the exploration of an airport authority, which would oversee the future of the airport. In a previous work session, the council members agreed an authority would be an advantage because airport experts could be brought in to oversee the airport, eliminating the burden on the council and the city manager, who is also the airport manager. A non-elected authority would also remove any political motives from the future of the airport.

Carter said she discussed airport authorities with Carol Comer, aviation program manager for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

"She was very favorable to them, and the important thing with any authority is to have strong leadership to accomplish goals that you wish to accomplish," Carter said.

City Attorney Ed Crudup will write the necessary legislative language to create an authority and bring it back to the council.

• In other city news, Carter said Covington has a good chance of getting a Georgia Initiative for Community Housing grant; a three-year grant, which doesn’t provide money, but instead provides free access to a variety of housing experts who help city officials turn their housing improvement goals into reality.

Because of the economy, only seven cities have applied for five grants, giving Covington good odds. Department of Community Affairs officials came to interview the city Thursday and seemed impressed with the city’s Urban Redevelopment Plan, Carter said. The grant winners will be announced on Nov. 17.

• The Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education have not yet told the city if they want to use any airtime on the city’s public, educational and government channels. The city is willing to give a few hours of airtime to the organizations for free to broadcast meetings or other information. The BOC discussed the possibility but had questions which City Manager Steve Horton said he answered. However, no further communication has taken place.

The recreation commission has long had the ability to put programming on Ch. 22, and the swap some of that programming with businesses in exchange for services. Horton said the city will still give the recreation commission some time, but not as much as the commission had previously.

• The council approved finalized Neighborhood Stabilization Program documents, which had gone back and forth between DCA and the city. City Planning Director Randy Vinson said the city should purchase its first foreclosed house soon.

• Under federal regulations, the city is required to purchase 15 percent of reserve electricity. Because the city purchased power from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the city of Marietta, the city will purchase less reserve power from the city of Lagrange. Covington is purchasing $35,470 of power this year and last year purchased twice as much.

• The city is going to use money from the cable TV sale money market account to pay for the more than $5 million in repairs at the airport. Most of the cost will be covered by federal and state reimbursement grants, and that reimbursed money will replenish the money market account. The city will have to pay more than $500,000 for its matching part of the grant, and if the budget stays in good shape, the money market account will get that money back from the general fund.

• The council will have a second council meeting in December during the normally scheduled third Monday, Dec. 21.

• Several road closings are coming up in the month of November. One lane of Geiger Street will be closed much of this week, and both lanes will be closed on Wednesday or Thursday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Traffic on State Route 81, between Herring Street and U.S. Highway 278, will be interrupted intermittently for filming for the "Vampire Diaries" on Monday from 1 p.m. to 2 a.m. and on Tuesday and Wednesday from noon to 4 a.m.

The Lighting of Newton County’s Historic Courthouse is taking place on Nov. 19, so the square will be closed between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.