The Covington City Council has again summoned the company, this time to its Sept. 8 council meeting, to discuss a failure to maintain an adequate supply of Jet A aviation fuel. Jet fuel is similar to highly purified kerosene.
"They were given an opportunity, were told to straighten these things out, that we don’t want any more problems. We want fuel out there. The paving is done; the weather is great, no more excuses. I feel they dropped the ball," Dalton said Wednesday evening.
Dalton didn’t know if the council would vote on early termination, an action which has been considered in past months, but said it would probably once again be part of the discussion.
A lack of fuel was first reported by City Manager Steve Horton at the city’s Tuesday strategic planning session, when he informed the council that one of the airport’s largest customers couldn’t get enough fuel. Under the city’s contract with Dixie Jet, the company is required to provide adequate fuel.
Dixie Jet Manager Rusty Anglin said Wednesday evening that the company had Jet A fuel available Tuesday morning but wasn’t sure if it had enough to supply the large order requested by Standridge Color Corp. He said Dixie Jet had sold a lot of fuel during the past couple days and was running low, but smaller customers were still able to buy Jet A fuel.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Horton said the fuel was supposed to be delivered by 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, and if the company hadn’t purchased it by mid-day, the city would buy the fuel directly. According to Anglin, the driver was delayed, which is not an uncommon occurrence, he said, and the fuel was delivered by 2:30 p.m. City Airport Engineer Vincent Passariello also confirmed the fuel was delivered at that time.
Anglin said the hiccup was the first one the company has had since both of its 10,000 gallon fuel tanks, AvGas and Jet A fuel, were fully up and operational as of June or July.
Fuel shortages had been a problem during previous months as well, but most of those instances had been during or immediately after the latest round of airport construction was completed. Because the 10,000 gallon fuel tanks were inoperable, Dixie Jet had to rely on two fuel tanks, one of which could hold 2,000 gallons of Jet A fuel and the other of which could hold 800 gallons of AvGas.
Horton said there wasn’t necessarily a minimum amount of fuel that the airport should maintain, but he said, in his opinion, enough fuel needs to be kept on site to meet daily needs and potential emergencies.
In July, the council discussed early termination, but it decided to give Dixie Jet another chance, after Riddell explained how much the economic downturn and continued construction had hurt his business. He said he was willing to work with the council any way possible, and the council agreed to give him another chance, but did not grant his request for the early termination clause in his company’s contract to be removed. The original 20-year contract has 10 years remaining.
At an unrelated work session Wednesday at noon, council members Ocie Franklin and Chris Smith also agreed they wanted to discuss the issue at the next council meeting. The meeting is being held on the Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., because Monday is Labor Day.