Franklin County / Sewanee Airport Oversight Committee Formed | Local News
The Franklin County Commission unanimously approved the formation of an oversight committee on Monday to give residents a voice in the management of the Franklin County / Sewanee Airport.
On July 6, the Legislative Committee approved the transmission of a resolution for the committee’s consideration which specifies that two residents of the Midway area should serve on the seven-member committee.
Commissioner Johnny Hughes, who holds the A seat of the Fifth District in Sewanee, has appointed Matt Hughes and Kevin Gilliam of Midway to serve on the committee.
Most of the audience of about 75 were from the Midway area and applauded when the commission approved the formation of the committee.
Matt Hughes, who has no connection to Johnny Hughes, addressed the commission and said the resolution should include an obligation for the University of the South, which operates the airport, to:
• Discuss any budget or growth and expansion plans for the airport with the committee.
• Have the airport audited by Franklin County every year.
• Require the university to comply with the airport committee. If this is not the case, the departmental commission reserves the right not to pursue other grants until the requested budget information is received.
However, County Mayor David Alexander said the matter under consideration formed the airport committee which could later adopt Matt Hughes’ suggestions, and the resolution was approved by the committee without further review from the legislative committee project.
The formation of the committee has been the key topic of several recent meetings as residents of the Midway area have said they are having issues with the management and operation of the airport.
Residents said they feared a decision would be made to use a prominent area to increase the size of the airport until it could accommodate planes the size of business jets, and they don’t want their property and ownership rights violated.
At a meeting on May 3, several residents said they would like an airport authority to be formed so that citizens’ comments can be heard on issues related to the airport.
The main problem has been cutting down trees near the runway to comply with Tennessee Department of Transportation safety regulations by reducing their height to clear the flight path.
Doug Williams, treasurer of the University of the South, told the commission that the airport must meet TDOT standards and that the state agency wants a permanent easement to ensure trees can be cut down at any time without having to obtain repeated permission from landowners.
Controversy arose when surveyors had recently visited Jerry Jacobs and Jerry Mansfield’s property to survey the easements without their prior knowledge.
Commissioner Greg King asked why there should be an easement if landowners voluntarily cut trees.
Williams said the university was following TDOT’s recommendation to get the easements, as this is an approach used at most airports and ensures that flight paths will remain clear.
Commissioner Adam Casey said the university has trees on its side as well, and logging should be a joint effort with landowners and the university’s trees being cut simultaneously.
Alexander said these details could be reviewed and accepted by the airport committee.
Initially, Alexander, Johnny Hughes and Fifth District Commissioner, Seat B, Helen Stapleton, agreed that the committee should include two county commissioners – one from District 5, two representatives from the University of the South and two private citizens.
However, the legislative committee amended the resolution to specify that private citizens are specifically listed as being from Midway.
The resolution says residents of Midway cannot be contracted or employed by the airport or have business with or at the airport. He adds that they cannot have anything to do with overseeing or managing the day-to-day operations of the airport and cannot be employed by the University of the South.
The resolution says that the mayor of Franklin County or someone appointed will be the chairman.
Committee members will serve four-year terms and non-Southern University members will be selected by the Mayor of Franklin County in consultation with residents of the Sewanee area and will be approved by the county commission.
Alexander told Johnny Hughes he could select the two Midway-area residents, and he did so during a break in Monday’s meeting.
Alexander said the first airport committee meeting will be held on August 2 at 6 p.m. in the Franklin County Annex building.
Matt Hughes had told the commission at a recent meeting that although it is a county airport, the University of the South was reluctant to release budget information on airport funding and on the actual destination of the money.
He said it had been over a month since he applied for budget documents but had not heard from the university.
County officials received budget information for the airport, but County Commissioner Greg King said it was unacceptable.
“This budget they sent us is a joke,” he told the Legislative Committee.
King repeated the same to Williams on Monday and said fuel sales and hangar rent, common items listed in airport budgets, were not included.
Williams said the university had an airport management company that managed operations.
He said the university paid $ 25,000 upfront and the business received additional income from rent from the hangers, which is why this was not shown in the budget information.
He also said the airport’s fuel tanks were in poor condition and several recent years had not been sold.
Casey asked why the tanks weren’t replaced since they are above ground, which costs less than more permanent installations.
Williams said the airport tanks actually cost around $ 300,000.
Casey replied, “$ 300,000 is a very big reservoir. “
Williams said the cost was associated with the type of tanks required by the TDOT.
Casey said the problem Midway residents have encountered with the airport and the university comes down to “transparency.” … These people want to know what’s going on.
Catherine Cavagnaro, who is the airport’s interim manager and operates the Ace aerobatic school there, provided a detailed report on how the airport spawned students who learned to fly in the careers of the ‘aviation.
She said the University of the South is the only university in the country to have its own airport.
King said the airport is not owned by the university, it is owned by Franklin County taxpayers.
Cavagnaro explained that she was new to the post and corrected her statement to say that the university is the only one in the country to operate an airport.