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Our Thoughts: Airport expansion a good deal for Covington, Newton County
Our Thoughts - OPINON

Make no mistake: Covington and Newton County are poised for big growth over the next few years.

The area will get a huge boost from the Morning Hornet LLC project — widely believed to be a Facebook data center — expected to be announced soon at Stanton Springs in the northern part of the county. And then, if sources are correct, we could see other economic development announcements coming soon elsewhere in the county.

And consider the critical mass coming to the area around the intersection of Alcovy Road and Highway 142 in north Covington.

It’s already a busy intersection carrying workers to and from the nearby plants of General Mills, Nisshinbo Automotive Manufacturing, U.S. Corrugated and others. Soon we’ll add Three Ring Studios and the Covington Town Center retail development to the mix.

And, in the midst of all of that, is the Covington Municipal Airport.

The airport is an economic engine for our county. Its presence tells businesses we’re a hop, skip and jump from their headquarters, so this would be a great place for expansion.

That could be even truer with state funding that has city officials considering a major expansion.

Gov. Nathan Deal has plans for setting aside $25 million for 11 aviation projects in the state. Covington is on the list, and through it would get a longer and wider runway.

“Basically, we could get about a $4 million project done, we could pay about a million dollars and get all that work done,” City Manager Leigh Ann Knight told the City Council on Feb. 12.

“(Airport Manager) John (King) and I thought that was a great return on investment.”

Although council members seemed to be in agreement on proceeding, the story was less warmly received when Oxford City Council members saw it in The Covington News last weekend.

What can Oxford do about it? Not much, unless the mayor or City Council can persuade the state to cut off the project’s funding.

The last expansion of the airport, in the 1990s, but Oxford and Covington at odds. It probably will happen again, which is unfortunate.

We hope the concerns of Oxford citizens, and all those who are near the airport, will be heard in relation to this project. Covington and Newton County are in for big changes over the next few years as businesses move in or expand, and it’s imperative we grow with a plan that takes everyone’s needs into account.

But this airport expansion is a no-brainer for Covington. The city already has a top-notch facility and expanding the runway will only enhance it, and serve as a signal of Covington’s readiness to do business.

Public hearings should take place as soon as possible so any reasonable concerns may be addressed and the work of giving Covington an even better airport begin post haste.

Our Thoughts is the view of The Covington News’ editorial board, which includes Editor and Publisher David Clemons, and Managing Editor Jackie Gutknecht.