The Covington City Council voted 3-2 Wednesday to terminate its contract with airport operator Dixie Jet Services.
After months of discussion, a fuel shortage last week at the facility was a deciding factor for the council, which voted to exercise the early termination clause in its contract with Dixie Jet.
Councilman Chris Smith made the motion for early termination and was supported by council members Keith Dalton and Ocie Franklin, while council members Janet Goodman and Hawnethia Williams opposed the motion. Councilman Mike Whatley was absent.
According to City Attorney Ed Crudup, by canceling the contract with 10 years of its original 20-year lifespan remaining, the city will be required to pay Dixie Jet $367,389.33.
Dixie Jet Owner Bob Riddell and Manager Rusty Anglin were asked to be in attendance, but were absent from the meeting.
Don Young of Standridge Color Corporation’s aviation department told the council that he experienced about five fuel service problems in two years. Last week, Standridge had to go elsewhere to buy fuel, costing it an extra $1,900. He said he only needed 120 gallons at the time, but Anglin told him Dixie Jet was out of Jet A fuel, despite the fact the 10,000 gallon fuel tank was operational.
Airport Advisory Committee Chairman Lance Flynn said he’s heard from several other hangar owners who agree that Dixie Jet is unreliable when it comes to providing services, including fuel and maintenance.
“It’s always something,” Flynn said.
City Manager Steve Horton, who is also the airport manager, expressed reservations about severing the city’s relationship with Dixie Jet, despite the problems. He asked the council if they felt there was no other alternative. Smith and Dalton said that Dixie Jet had been given enough chances to succeed.
Goodman voted against early termination. She said afterward she didn’t feel right about terminating the contract, and both she and Williams expressed concern about airport management in the future.
Horton said the early termination clause calls for a 90-day period during which Dixie Jet will continue to operate the airport. He said he will work with Airport Engineer Vincent Passariello and other city employees to plan a course of action. The city could hire another third party to operate the airport or it may have a working plan by that time for a Covington Municipal Airport Authority.
Dixie Jet will continue to be in charge of purchasing fuel, but the city will step in if the company does not come through. For more details and reactions, see Friday’s edition of The Covington News.