Council to Discuss Macon Airport Deal

The Macon City Council will meet Wednesday evening to discuss an emergency agreement for a private company to manage Middle Georgia Regional Airport as the city tries to keep the airport open to commercial flights.

Until council members meet with administration officials, several council members said they're not sure what to think of Mayor Jack Ellis' move Friday to bring in TBI Airport Management to run the facility. But the move does show, several members said, the severity of the situation at the airport, which has been cited by both the Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration for problems that threaten its operating certificate.

"As late as last week (we were hearing) 'we have everything under control,' " Councilman Rick Hutto said. "And that turns out to be false, like so many things."

Ellis said two TBI officials were at the airport Monday, and at least one will remain there for the near future. Eventually, Ellis said he wants a permanent contract, which would have to be approved by the council, for TBI or another airport management company to run the airport. But he also said the city could still hire a full-time aviation director instead to replace the one he terminated in December.

"We have options," Ellis said.

Meanwhile, TBI is running the airport under a memorandum of understanding with the city. Ellis said that document isn't yet finalized because it still has "a couple of nuances" to work out. He would not provide a copy to The Telegraph until it's been given to council members.

Ellis' agreement with TBI, which was announced Friday evening, followed a Wednesday FAA inspection at Middle Georgia Regional. Federal officials have not said what that inspection revealed about the airport's compliance with aviation regulations, but Ellis indicated Monday that "we had an emergency on our hands."

An FAA spokeswoman has called Middle Georgia Regional's problems "very rare." Ellis said he understands that the FAA has never shut down commercial flights at an airport - at least not in the Southeast - and "we don't plan on being the first."

City Council President Anita Ponder said she needs details about the situation, which she hopes to get during the planned 6 p.m. work session Wednesday.

"I do know this," she said. "The underlying reason (Ellis entered into an agreement with TBI) was because we were in jeopardy."

Macon Telegraph

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