County to vote on new airport governance

This map shows the location of major upcoming capital projects at the airport: a new ramp expected to begin construction in 2019-2020, Forsyth Tech’s Aviation Career Development Center scheduled to break ground in 2019, and a new taxiway expected to begin construction in 2020-2021.

County to vote on new airport governance
November 01
02:30 2018

Forsyth County commissioners will vote today, Thursday, Nov. 1, on making the Smith Reynolds Airport into a county department with an Airport Board.

The airport, located on North Liberty Street, is owned by the county and is governed by the Airport Commission of Forsyth County. The county has been working for months on transitioning the airport to a county department, which will happen on Jan. 1. The resolution that’ll be voted on during the commissioner’s 2 p.m. meeting spells out how that will work.

County Commissioner Ted Kaplan, who also serves on the Airport Commission, told his fellow county commissioners last month that he believed sharing county assets will save the airport money and make it more efficient.

“This finally brings the airport under the county commissioners and our authority,” said Kaplan. “We have the board, the Airport Commission, to basically take care of the day-to-day business of the airport and then any major stuff will have to go through us.”

The five members of the Airport Commission, plus new members Gayle Anderson and David Mounts, currently form the Smith Reynolds Airport Advisory Board. Next year, those seven members will become the new Smith Reynolds Airport Board. The county manager will become the supervisor for the airport director.

Also, all airport property will be owned by the county. Kaplan previously said that some of the property at the airport is titled to the Airport Commission with the rest belonging to the county, which created complications when applying for FAA grants that want only one owner.

Under the new organization, the county commissioners will have exclusive authority to:

*Approve budgets 

*Buy and sell land and buildings

*Sell personal property worth more than $30,000

*Grant or accept easements

*Execute leases longer than 10 years

*Execute FAA and NCDOT grant agreements

*Execute inter-local agreements

The Airport Board will have the ability to:

*Recommend a budget to the county commissioners

*Execute leases up to 10 years long

*Adopt airport policies, rules and regulations

*Establish annual rates, fees and charges

*Provide advice on the hiring and firing of an airport director

*Promote the airport through marketing, branding and community outreach

Airport Commission Chair Scott Piper said the transition has been smooth so far.

“We’ve always been a part of the county, it’s just we haven’t been a department of the county,” said Piper. “If this is done correctly, it will be pretty darn seamless.”

This change is unrelated to previous attempts to de-annex the airport from the city to avoid city taxes and fees. Kaplan has said he didn’t think de-annexation, which would require an act by the General Assembly, was possible, saying there was no will to do it.

The airport has several major construction projects coming up in the next few years. Forsyth Tech’s Aviation Career Development Center is expected to break ground next year in a lot located near the main runway. A new ramp, which airplanes will park on, is planned to be built on airport property beside North State Aviation on North Liberty Street, and is expected to begin construction in 2019 or 2020, after an environmental assessment on the site is done.

The environmental assessment has begun on a new taxiway that’ll run parallel to the main runway. If approved, construction is now expected to begin in 2020 or 2021 and may require the airport to purchase homes on Teresa Avenue. The new taxiway is needed because the current one is too close to the main runway for current FAA regulations.

The next Airport Commission meeting is Nov. 29 at 4 p.m. in Suite 204 of the Smith Reynolds Airport Terminal Building.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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