The city of Macon will hire an airport operations manager and bring in a consultant to revise its airport security plan as it pushes to maintain commercial flights at Middle Georgia Regional Airport and settle issues with the federal regulators.
The Macon City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to spend $72,986 to cover those initiatives as well as some maintenance work at the airport, which has been cited in the past few months by both the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration for maintenance and security problems.
Regina McDuffie, the city's chief administrative officer, also said Tuesday that the search has begun for a new, permanent aviation director for the city's two airports. Former director Rex Elder was brought in on a temporary basis in late December after George Brown was fired. Brown has appealed that decision and is expected to have a hearing before the City Council. McDuffie said the city has about 15 applicants for his old job.
"We know that we cannot hire somebody until that issue is resolved," McDuffie said.
But adding a permanent director and addressing other FAA and TSA concerns are top priorities, and time is of the essence, McDuffie said. Both regulating agencies recently have issued deadlines, and the FAA expects the city to have an operations manager in place and to address other issues by about Feb. 21, McDuffie said.
FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen confirmed that deadline Tuesday, but she did not address specifics of what must be done by that date. A recent FAA letter to the city detailed 13 problems - including slow emergency response times and signage problems - and suggested the city hire an operations manager. Failure to address the issues could result in a suspension of the operating certificate at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport, which would shut down the airport's commercial flights.
McDuffie said the city expects to pay between $45,000 and $55,000 annually for an operations manager who would work with federal authorities on security issues and make sure the city stays in compliance.
Another $20,000 a year would be used to hire a consultant, who will rewrite the city's airport security plan and revise its procedures manual. That consultant can only be hired with council approval, according to an amendment added to this measure Tuesday by council members wary of who Mayor Jack Ellis' administration might choose.
Because the city already is about halfway through the fiscal year, the full annual salary of the operations manager would not be needed this year. The rest of the money approved Tuesday would pay for various improvements, including new markings at the airport, according to a budget document submitted to the council.
Information from The Telegraph's
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The Federal Aviation Administration will gauge how far the airport has come since a series of violations were noted in December.
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