Airport property owners fight Georgia DoT contract

Published 10:21 pm Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners tabled a decision Tuesday night to approve a contract for the first phase of land acquisition services at the Decatur County Airport.

The contract from the Georgia Department of Transportation includes a series of title searches, updated surveys and property appraisals for properties that are adjacent to the airport.

Greg Teague, president of Croy Engineering, explained this contract approval was needed for security purposes, and would ultimately result in these properties being acquired from their owners by Decatur County.

Email newsletter signup

Teague said it was GDoT’s preference for the county to control all of the property.

“The county receives $150,000 every year of entitlement money just for keeping up with the airport,” Teague said. “Also the county has a five-year capital improvement plan, that the county has roughly a million dollars of improvement scheduled out that allows the county to receive grant money from the state. If the county elects not to do this, the GDoT would have a conversation about being out of compliance with this.”

Teague said that meant the county could lose the $150,000. He also said the GDOT needed to know the board’s decision by Friday.

The value of the contract is just over $90,000, which all but $5,300 would be paid for by GDoT and the Federal Airport Authority.

Doug Young, a member of the Airport Advisory Committee, disagreed with the contract.

“We met with all the landowners,” Young said. “Every landowner out there said they were opposed to it. With every landowner opposed to this, stonewall, I think it is silly to sign a $90,000 contract to go nowhere. Croy is the only one to gain, the county doesn’t gain anything.”

Billy Howell, owner of the world-renown Ag Flight school at the airport for 31 years, said he had poured all of his money into the school and wouldn’t let his property go easily.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do, but nobody is going to take my property without a big, big fight,” Howell said. “I’ll give it anything. Somebody like that tries to take my property? That’s my life, 31 years of it.”

If landowners flat out refused to sell their property, other options for acquisition include a “Through the Fence Agreement,” which allows people who own residential property with aircraft storage facilities near an airport to access the airport from off-airport property. Another would be for the county to begin a leasing operation with the property owners.

Decatur County attorney Bruce Kirbo explained the contract in question was only for a FFA-approved contractor and not Croy specifically. The contract itself is to receive the $90,000 in grant money and use it for contracting services.

“Friday is only a deadline for this,” Young said about the contract. “The following week we can sit down at a table to make an agreement, whether it is a Through the Fence Agreement, land acquisition. As long as GDoT has something from y’all that says you have started the process, you will not lose that ($150,000).”

Decatur County Commission Chairman Dennis Brinson entertained a motion to approve the contract, so moved by commissioner George Anderson. The motion died for a lack of a second. The board decided to wait until after the Airport Advisory Committee meets to make their final decision on the contract.

The Airport Advisory committee meets Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. at the Decatur County Airport.