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BOC opts out of airport contract

By Rachel Shirey

rshirey@henryherald.com

McDONOUGH — Henry County taxpayers will have to foot the bill for a $25,000 opt-out fee, after the Henry County Board of Commissioners decided to forgo an airport management contract with a third-party company Monday night.

With just two days prior notice, the board held a special meeting to discuss the future of the airport, open the floor for public participation and to vote on a formal name change.

Even District 4 Commissioner Reid Bowman said he thought the time-frame was weak.

BOC Chairman Tommy Smith led the charge to put the airport back in the hands of local government.

District 2 Commissioner Brian Preston argued that local control was the best route for the airport, but only if county leaders could establish a vision and plan for the future.

He expressed concerns that hiring a third-party company, like AFCO AvPORTS, to manage the airport’s operations would be a hindrance to Hampton’s future development.

In its first year of operation, the county airport only managed to break even from hangar leases and fuel sales, suffering a nearly $16,000 loss in its first six months.

However, commissioners said they hope to see the airport take ownership of its full potential, and discussed creating an airport authority, or a commission, to manage that growth in the absence of AvPORTS’ operation assistance.

“We’re not interested in making money selling fuel,” said Bowman, who voted against local control. “We are interested in the jobs and the revenue that will be created by the buildings being built.”

The commission is still expected to progress with the first phase of the expansion plan which would lengthen the runway to 5,503 feet and widen it by 25 feet, costing the county $166,000.

If phase two, which involves the acquisition of adjacent acreage, is not completed in five years, the county will be expected to pay $3.2 million for phase one.

The board also voted 4-2 to change the name of the airport from South Regional Airport to Henry County Airport, while changing the associated city from Atlanta to Hampton.