Macon Meeting to Discuss Airport Privatization Falls Through

March 2, 2006
That meeting had been set to discuss Middle Georgia Regional Airport, which faces the loss of commercial service because of federal sanctions.

Wednesday's scheduled Macon City Council session on the privatization of the city's airports was canceled.

Mayor Jack Ellis essentially canceled the meeting because he was out of town much of the day at a veteran's hospital because of a "service-connected" issue he declined to elaborate upon. Ellis, who served in Vietnam, was back at City Hall, though, shortly before the canceled 6:15 p.m. meeting.

That meeting had been set to discuss Middle Georgia Regional Airport, which faces the loss of commercial service because of federal sanctions. Friday, Ellis negotiated an emergency agreement with TBI Airport Management to assume management at Middle Georgia Regional and the city's second, smaller airport, the Macon Downtown Airport.

Ellis has said he will seek council approval for a long-term contract with TBI or another management company, but has also said the airport might hire a permanent in-house director instead. Either way, Ellis said Wednesday that he still wants to meet with council members - individually if necessary - to discuss the situation at Middle Georgia Regional and the prospect of privatization before asking for a vote.

He said that will happen as soon as possible. Councilwoman Willette Hill-Chambliss, who chairs the council's Public Properties Committee, said that Wednesday was the only day council members could have gathered this week. Council President Anita Ponder technically canceled the meeting, but she did that because Ellis wasn't going to attend or send a representative, she said.

In a Tuesday memorandum canceling the meeting, Ponder called the airport issue "critical."

"However, in spite of this emergency, our office has notified me that the administration will not have a representative that can be present," the memorandum states.

Ellis said he wants to meet personally with council members and that he did not expect to be able to Wednesday evening. He said he informed Hill-Chambliss and Councilman Charles Jones on Friday of his intention to enter into the temporary agreement with TBI, which several council members have questions about. He said he needed to move quickly last week to bring the company on board to address the situation at Middle Georgia Regional.

"What more could I do?" Ellis said. "I couldn't wait to get a consensus of 15 people (on council)."

Ponder said the council needs more information.

"I don't think it would have taken a whole lot of time to say ... 'We decided to make this decision' and why," Ponder said. "Then everybody could be on the same page. There's no accusation that it was a good idea or a bad idea ... it's just about information."

Macon Telegraph

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