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City presses Sylacauga Airport Authority to sign operating agreement


SYLACAUGA, Ala. – If you have visited the Sylacauga Airport, you have undoubtedly seen its nicely paved runways and quality hangars. They are sure to make an impression on anyone that comes into the city by plane.

City Council president Lee Perryman believes the airport is one of the most important amenities the city has to offer. “To me, the airport is like a chamber of commerce,” said Perryman. “For people who have tons of resources who come in and build businesses and factories, this is the part of Sylacauga they see. We want them to know we are dedicated to our airport.”

However, the airport faces a major otperational issue. According to Perryman, the entity which continues to operate the facility, the Sylacauga Airport Authority (SAA), is not actually authorized to run the city’s airport.

The SAA was established in 2014 in hopes of one day becoming a self-sustaining airport completely free from the City of Sylacauga. That ultimate plan is still a goal for both the SAA and the City of Sylacauga.

Currently, the city still owns the airport. The city is ultimately responsible for all activities conducted at the airport and to the Federal Aviation Administration. The issue keeping the SAA from controlling Sylacauga’s runways is an operating agreement.

The three years since the SAA have consisted of a non-stop revolving door of operating agreement drafts. Many proposals have been sent from both sides, but nothing has been agreed upon.

According to SAA Chairman Tommy Dobson, the issue with agreements sent from the city to the SAA has resulted in the SAA wacting nothing less than a lease agreement on the property and has hoped for a complete sell of the property. “[The city] has taken the position that we should not have the property,” said Dobson. “We are okay with that, because a lease is all we are asking for.” Dobson said the last agreement presented by the city was very close to what the SAA wanted, but still proposed too many red flags for a finalized agreement.

The SAA held its board meeting for the month of March on Thursday night, and the city asked for a lot more than just a lease agreement. During the meeting, Perryman presented a non-negotiable operating agreement that the SAA must sign by March 31. It included all city and regulatory requirements which were approved by the City Council and signed by Mayor Jim Heigl.

In the presentation, Perryman said the agreement simply gives the SAA the authority to run the airport. According to Perryman, it gives the SAA full reign to control the airport but still allows the city to be engaged in funding and other matters until the ultimate goal of self-sustainability is met. “I have not found anything in there, that if I were running the airport would give me any degree of concer,” said Perryman.

The City is also demanding many things from the SAA in the agreement. The City wants copies of all fee and rental structure, a list of all revenue sources, financial statements, proposed budgets so it can be included in the City’s budgeting process and copies of proofs of required insurance.

Dobson seemed to be pleased with the negotiations between his authority and the City. “We have the same vision for this airport as the City,” Dobson explained. “With the attitude the City displayed here tonight, I think this operating agreement will be good. Of course we’ll pass this along to our attorney and let him go through it, but it sounds good.”

The March 31 deadline for signing the operating agreement is quickly approaching. In the board meeting Perryman said he would gladly meet face-to-face with the SAA or attend conference calls if any questions about the agreement arise.

Jeremy Law for | © 2017, City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved

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