Atlanta Airport Manager Offered 3-Year Extension

The man who runs the world's busiest airport could have a job for three more years if the Atlanta City Council approves a contract extension negotiated between Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport General Manager Ben DeCosta and Mayor Shirley Franklin.

The contract, which will be voted on by the council's Transportation Committee next week, calls for DeCosta to get a base salary of $255,000 a year with a 4 percent annual increase through June 30, 2010. He would also receive $15,305 annually in deferred compensation, a city car and cellphone.

DeCosta currently is paid about $250,000 a year.

"Ben has achieved a number of significant accomplishments at Hartsfield-Jackson, and I look forward to him continuing through the remainder of my term as mayor," Franklin said in a statement Thursday.

DeCosta, who came to the airport in 1998, is the city's highest-paid employee, but ranks fifth nationally behind other airport executives. The manager of the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport makes a base salary of about $309,000 a year and the Los Angeles airport director gets $298,000.

DeCosta, 61, has declined comment about his contract negotiations, but has said he wants to remain at Hartsfield-Jackson.

During his tenure, Hartsfield-Jackson has constructed a billion-dollar fifth runway, built the nation's tallest control tower and has begun work on an off-site rental car facility that will be connected to the airport by a tram. A new international terminal is also scheduled.

The Brooklyn-born DeCosta came from Newark International Airport, a high-profile hire by former Mayor Bill Campbell who is now serving prison time for tax evasion.

When Franklin was elected mayor, she vowed to clean up city government and decided to keep DeCosta, to whom she gives high marks for the day-to-day operation of the airport, which employs 55,000 people and handles 85 million passengers a year.

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