Airport committee needs to be officially appointed

Published 7:36 am Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I covered the meeting Monday afternoon at the Decatur County Airport between representatives from the Development Authority and members of the Airport Committee.
Of particular interest to me, in addition to doing my job in reporting the meeting to you, was to find out how an unofficial committee, with members who participate on an ad-hoc basis, would approach making decisions that could potentially impact this county for years to come.
The purpose of the meeting was fairly simple — to discuss removing or relocating a possible grass landing strip from the master plan of the airport. Because the landing strip is drawn on the map of the airport — albeit labeled as a “possible grass landing strip” on the plan — the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, D.C., considers it as built.
Seems like a simple enough task.
The Decatur County Commission could have made the process even simpler last Tuesday night, by voting to redraw the map and sending it through the proper channels of the Georgia Department of Transportation and then on to the FAA for approval.
Instead, the commission asked County Administrator Gary Breedlove to arrange a meeting between the Airport Committee and representatives from the Development Authority before officially making a decision. However, Commissioner Butch Mosely indicated that if the meeting did not take place, “we would make the change anyway.”
The Airport Committee is an not official body of Decatur County. Its members are not appointed, and it has no authority. Unlike, for example, the Bainbridge Tree Committee or the Decatur County Planning Board, the Airport Committee is not bound by the open meetings and open records laws of the state of Georgia.
This group seems to have accomplished some good things since its inception in 2006, and should be commended for having the best interests of the airport in mind. A functional, viable airport is as big an economic development tool that any community could have.
But, if the Decatur County Commissioners intend to rely on the advice and input from a group or committee relative to the airport, I suggest they take the step of making this an official committee or board of the county. Where there is no accountability, there can be no authority. I don’t disagree with having the input from a group interested in the welfare of the airport; just make it an official committee.
In addition to discussing the removal or relocation of the grass landing strip, the meeting was sidetracked several times by discussing the solar farm project that will locate in the industrial park.
In this space last Saturday, I encouraged everyone associated with this project, specifically Breedlove and the county staff, to work together and “sing the same tune” on bringing this effort to fruition.
The County Commission had already voted unanimously at a prior meeting to approve the contracts for the potential company to use land at the industrial park. The result would be an additional $400,000 in property tax revenue.
At the end of the meeting, Breedlove didn’t miss the chance to grandstand in front of a group of people that he has obvious fondness for — the airport committee — and address my column and opinions from last Saturday.
At the end of the meeting, Breedlove said, “As far as Jeff and the media, if you expect me to sing a tune that everyone else is singing and not ask any questions about developments or what’s going on, then you’ve got the wrong guy. And you can communicate to the [county commission] chairman and the other commissioners that they can get someone else to do what I do.”
Since Breedlove doesn’t seem to consider the fact that the commissioners — his bosses — have already made a decision on this project, and he should be singing the tune that they chose, it might be wise for the commission to consider Breedlove’s advice.

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