McDONOUGH — Henry County commissioners agreed that before they can sign off on the management of Atlanta South Regional Airport in Hampton, they have to first get through race weekend.
Commissioners voted Friday to extend an interim agreement with AvPORTS Management LLC to manage the airport for seven days. County Manager Fred Auletta said the arrangement will give both groups time to discuss how to proceed.
A decision on a long-term agreement is expected Tuesday.
The Board of Commissioners previously voted 3-2 to approve a 180-day extension of an interim agreement with AvPORTS.
However, during a called meeting Friday, Auletta said leadership at AvPORTS was not completely on board with that plan, calling it “an issue to wrestle with.”
Auletta said despite the impasse, an AvPORTS leader did not want to interfere with Labor Day weekend activities at Atlanta Motor Speedway near the airport.
“His exact words were that he had no desire to cause a problem with the race and that it was okay to assume the agreement for seven days — the interim agreement,” said Auletta. “This would get us through the weekend with AvPORTS’ assistance of the airport manager that is on their payroll.”
Earlier this week, county leaders unveiled a plan for AvPORTS to manage operations at Atlanta South Regional Airport over the next decade.
Prior to that 3-2 vote, Auletta proposed a more permanent agreement that would allow AvPORTS to manage a runway expansion and provide a full-management period for the airport.
Auletta said construction on the runway is scheduled to be completed before the 2013 NASCAR race at AMS.
Phase 2 of the runway expansion would create an additional 500 feet of length and 100 feet of width by Sept. 1, 2017. The full-management period would begin then and be in effect for three 10-year terms unless the agreement is canceled by the county or by AvPORTS.
Under the proposed agreement, the county would pay AvPORTS $50,000 annually to manage the airport during the runway expansion. That money would come from airport surplus profits and not from the county’s general fund, said Auletta.
He added that AvPORTS, and not the county government, would be responsible for any losses incurred by operation of the airport.
Ed Toney of Hampton is a former manager at the airport, previously known as Tara Field. He said county leaders should manage the airport themselves rather than seeking an outside company to do so.
“They’ve gone with a New York-based company instead of trying to go in-house within the county,” said Toney. “So we’re employing workers from New York when it should be done here. We also need an airport authority in place that will govern the operation of the airport.”
Laura Kimball of McDonough was at two commission meetings this week where the airport was discussed. She expressed opposition to the runway extension, saying the runway is long enough as it is.
“They’re just trying to extend it with money that we don’t have,” said Kimball.
District IV Commissioner Reid Bowman said the county has been planning for more than a year to make changes to the runway.
“We’ve been working with this management group for well over a year,” said Bowman. “This didn’t just come up yesterday. This is a contract that we put in place because they are professionals. Nobody on this board is a professional airport manager. We need people that know what they’re doing with it.”