Lanett Council in process to create Airport Department

Published 10:07 am Thursday, March 7, 2024

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LANETT — At Monday’s meeting of the Lanett City Council, first readings were held of ordinances to create an Airport Department and to adjust the water rates. These two ordinances could be approved following second readings at the March 18 meeting.

“The advancement of the Lanett Regional Airport is of the utmost importance,” reads the proposed Airport Department ordinance. “The new department will be staffed with personnel under the direction of an airport department head. This organizational change is to improve our service delivery and customer service to the citizens and to increase the efficiency of airport operations.”

The ordinance calls for one full-time department head position of airport manager who will report to the mayor and whose position will be in line with other city department heads. The airport manager will have a pay grade of 13 as shown in the city’s pay grade schedule. The manager will have one full-time administrative secretary who will be paid on grade 6 as spelled out in the 2023-24 operating budget.

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The proposed change in the water rate lowers the maximum amount of water usage from the present 3,000 gallons a month to 2,000 gallons a month. Anyone who will be using 2,000 gallons a month or lower will be charged $14.25. Anyone using more than that will be charged an additional $3.75 per 1,000 gallons.

According to Mayor Jamie Heard, this will still be one of the lower rates charged for water usage in the local area.

The council also approved a resolution to declare six city vehicles as surplus property. This will allow four unneeded vehicles from the Cemetery & Grounds Department and two from the Electric Department to be sold to high bidders.

The Cemetery & Grounds vehicles include a 2006 Ford truck, a 2007 GMC Sierra, a 2010 Ford F-150 truck and an M-2 Freightliner truck. The Electric Department vehicles include a gray 2006 Dodge Durango and a maroon 2007 Dodge Dakota.

In a 5 p.m. work session that preceded the 6 p.m. council meeting, Mayor Jamie Heard told the council that he had interviewed several candidates for the vacant position of airport manager. He said he would allow council members to be involved in the process once the final candidates had been narrowed down.

Council Member Tony Malone asked City Attorney Stanley Gray if a flight school operating at the airport was carrying adequate liability insurance. Gray said that some city insurance was already in place but that he needed to do further research into it.

Dan DeJournette, a member of the local airport committee, talked to the council about the future of the airport. He said the city is about halfway there to having an airport that can meet its full potential. 

“There’s still a lot that needs to be done,” he said. “We need hangars out there. Some of our larger local businesses may need places for corporate jets when they come here.”

He urged the council not to see the airport primarily as a money maker for the city. “Let’s look at it in terms of what it can mean for the community as a whole,” he said. “We need to involve the community in it. There’s an educational opportunity here for our young.”

DeJournette said he had been most impressed with the way the City of Prattville had been managing its airport. He and other members of the committee had recently taken a trip to see that airport. They will make a trip to Cullman, Alabama next week to see their airport.

“Prattville has done a good job in having their airport benefit their community,” DeJournette said. “They have lots of activities there. It’s not just a flying club for two or three people.”

An important need is to have a better way to get there by road. The city and its consultants have been looking at building a new road off Phillips Road near the Hampton Inn as a direct way to get there.

“This is something that needs to be addressed,” DeJournette said. “I’d like for you to keep these things in mind. Please reach out to those of us on the committee as we move forward.”

Council Member Angelia Thomas said she wanted it clearly understood that she was all for the airport. “We’ve been talking about getting a new manager,” she said. “The committee has an important role in advising us, and we appreciate that. We want the airport to be a major asset for the entire community, but we also want to derive income from it as well. We’d like to do both. It is so important that we have the right airport manager. I’d like to see our airport as something special, a place where we could involve our young people. I’m really excited about its potential.”

Council Member Tifton Dobbs agreed with DeJourette that the trip to Prattville had been eye-opening and that he was looking forward to taking a trip with the committee next Wednesday to Cullman.