County signs DoT contract for aiport

Published 6:51 pm Friday, May 29, 2015

After tabling a decision on whether to approve a contract from the Georgia Department of Transportation at Tuesday’s county commission meeting, the Decatur County Board of Commissioners did just that with a unanimous vote at a special called meeting Thursday.

The contract mandates that all privately owned properties adjacent to the Decatur County Airport be surveyed, title searched and receive an environmental assessment. The goal is for Decatur County to have up to date records on these properties to negotiate purchasing them from their owners, a possibility that brought a few property owners to Tuesday’s County Commission meeting in protest.

However, Airport Advisory Committee member Doug Young pointed out at their meeting Wednesday that completing this process was crucial for the airport to continue to receive future funding, including a $150,000 grant to be used on budgeted projects.

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“If we don’t do this, not only will we lose $90,000, but we will be put in non-compliance,” Decatur County Commissioner Pete Stephens said at the airport meeting. “If we go into non-compliance, we are going into the red flag. Not only because they take $90,000, but they can also forfeit the $150,000.”

The contract grants roughly $85,000 of a needed $90,000 to complete the survey process, meaning Decatur County would be required to pay around $5,000 from its own pocket.
Refusing to sign the contract would only delay what the county needs done, anyways: settling the land acquisition problem.

The GDoT has mandated that all airports in the state, along with their adjacent properties, be owned by the counties they reside in. There are alternatives for those who refuse to sell their property, including a Through the Fence Agreement and leasing options, but the GDoT contract must be signed first while the money is available.

“To get through this problem of through the fence operations, and we have to get through it one day, whether it be today or next year, it has to be done,” Young said. “If we don’t do this, and funds aren’t available next year, then the county will pay $90,000 to start the land acquisition process.”

There are currently five property owners adjacent to the Decatur County Airport.

“We are thankful the airport committee helped get it through the finish line,” Decatur County Commission Chairman Dennis Brinson said.