clear
Tuesday May 24th, 2016 11:27PM

Habersham airport authority threatened with lawsuit

By Rob Moore Reporter
CLARKESVILLE - A change in management at the Habersham County Airport has upset many in the local aviation community.

At this week's Habersham County Airport Authority meeting, some of those who are upset spoke out against the change and the authority members who initiated it.

County officials had to bring in additional chairs as more than three dozen people attended the meeting.

Habersham County businessman Peter Moncure, who has an aircraft based at the airport, said he pays about $750,000 annually in salaries, with all of his sales occurring outside Habersham County.

Moncure classified his airplane as "absolutely essential to my business."

Moncure discussed the Appling County Airport in Baxley, and the airport in Toccoa, praising Fixed Based Operator James Tatum for his hospitality to every aircraft that visits the Habersham airfield.

"That is something you will not again soon find," Moncure said.

He termed the pending termination of Tatum's contract as FBO as "economic suicide" and "morally repugnant," telling authority members, "you must be making the choice based on economic grounds."

Aircraft owner and former Habersham County employee Barry Church asked Authority Chairman Stephen Ward several questions, with the first being whether requests for proposals for the FBO services were properly advertised in the county's legal organ.

"They were sent to The Northeast Georgian," Ward said.

"Were they advertised?" Church asked. "Answer my question - please!"

After Church persisted, Ward said, "Mr. Church, I don't have to answer your questions."

That's when things deteriorated.

"Well, had you rather answer it to this group or to an attorney?" Church said. "Make your choice right now. I'm asking a question."

Ward replied, "I'll take my chances with the attorney."

"Very well," Church said, continuing with a battery of questions.

Among those was an assertion that the authority, by its own minutes, conducted business illegally in December 2013.

"On Dec. 2, 2013, your minutes reflect that this board, after adjourning the meeting, conducted business and took a vote by email on a proposition made by [Authority Member Mike Moore, who currently serves as interim airport manager]," Church said. "Gentlemen, my question is if y'all are doing stuff outside of a public meeting and you're smart enough that you put it in your own minutes as you did, what are you doing outside the public meeting that you don't put in the minutes?"

Church then called for the resignations of the authority, in total, during the meeting.

He also took on the issue of the non-advertised FBO request for proposals (RFPs).

"Based on the fact that that was not advertised in the legal organ of Habersham County, every one of those contracts should be null and void and that you go out for another bid after it's properly done."

RFPs received by the deadline and opened earlier in the meeting were from Blue Sky Aviation, Foothills Aviation (proposed name), and Lanier Flight Center. Only the name was read during the meeting, and the RFP documents left the meeting in the custody of the authority chairman.

Asked during the meeting who would serve on the committee to review FBO proposals, Ward said he, Moore, Economic Development Director J.R. Charles and at least two others would handle that task.

Also addressing the authority during its meeting were David Bristol and Janice Griggs.

Bristol said he began flying at Habersham County Airport in 1984, taking his first lesson six years later.

"I just upgraded to captain with U.S. Airways Group," Bristol said.

Bristol praised Tatum, saying he helped him learn to fly, and supported him in his decision in 2000 to become an airline pilot.

"He's kept aviation affordable," Bristol said. "I know one of those bids is another company that is at another airport and to go rent one of their planes with an instructor right now is over double what it is to rent Mr. Tatum's plane with an instructor. This is not the same area as Gainesville, Ga., or Atlanta, Ga."

Griggs asked if there is a written list of duties of the airport manager as opposed to the FBO.

"The minutes reflect that Mike Moore was elected as the interim airport manager, and those duties were to include being a liaison between the pilots and the authority, as well as to do routine sweeps for any maintenance issues that he saw - any issues that he thought might cause a hazard at the airport, and to suggest or recommend what needed to be done at that time," Ward said. "Those are the duties of the interim airport manager."

Griggs asked if the authority is interested in working with the pilots and airport community in harmony, rather than bickering.

"The authority would absolutely love for it to be like that," Ward said. "That would be fantastic, and would make everything run a lot smoother if we could all be on the same page."

As Ward attempted to announce the date of the next meeting as June 2, Authority Member Jay Hughes made a motion to begin holding the group's meetings back at the airport.

Ward protested, saying, "This number of people will not fit out there."

Authority Member Joe Elam seconded Hughes' motion so the issue could be discussed.

"First thing is if we don't have these meetings at the airport, there won't be a guarantee that we are regularly on the property," Hughes said. "Also, it allows us to do an immediate inspection every time we are there. We can see the conditions for ourselves."

Hughes asserted that holding meetings at the airport presented members with the opportunity not only to look at the conditions, but to talk with individuals about what's going on and how they feel.

"I think it allows us to do our job more effectively," Hughes said.

When it came to a vote, however, Ward and Moore didn't agree, resulting in a 2-2 vote.

The group agreed to reconsider the matter at its June 2 meeting if all five members are present. That meeting still will be held in the Habersham County Administrative Building (former courthouse) in Clarkesville.
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
US stocks post sixth straight year of gains
U.S. stocks ended a strong 2014 with moderate declines Wednesday.
4:43PM ( 1 year ago )
Palestinians push ahead in pursuit of war crimes charges against Israel
Stung by a resounding defeat in the U.N. Security Council, the Palestinians announced Wednesday that they joined the International Criminal Court to pursue war crimes charges against Israel.
1:57PM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 1 year ago )
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 1 year ago )
Sheriff: Man shot 2 on I-85 because he wanted car
A 22-year-old man shot two people who stopped to give him a ride on Interstate 85 in South Carolina on Christmas Eve because he wanted their car to drive to Georgia, a sheriff said Wednesday.
5:21PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
US off war footing at year's end, but wars go on
Taking America off a permanent war footing is proving harder than President Barack Obama may have suggested.
6:13PM ( 1 year ago )
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 1 year ago )
Conviction of Putin foe sets off protest in Moscow
President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
6:03PM ( 1 year ago )
Politics
Collins has no problem with four challengers, easily wins third term in Washington
Despite being challenged by four other Republicans, Doug Collins of Gainesville handily won re-election as Georgia's Ninth District Congressman in Tuesday's General Primary.
10:30PM ( 57 minutes ago )
Isakson wins GOP primary, will compete for third US Senate term
Johnny Isakson will compete for a third term in the U.S. Senate.
By Associated Press
9:08PM ( 2 hours ago )
GOP governors ask FCC to address illegal prison cellphones
Ten Republican governors - including Georgia's Nathan Deal - want the Federal Communications Commission to give states more autonomy to apply technology that can stop prison inmates from using smuggled cellphones.
By Associated Press
8:02PM ( 3 hours ago )
Atlanta selected to host Super Bowl thanks in large part to stadium investment
The NFL awarded Super Bowls to Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles, three cities that made significant financial investments in new stadiums or recently upgraded an existing one. Atlanta will host the game in 2019, followed by Miami (2020) and Los Angeles (2021), it was announced Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings.
By The Associated Press
7:59PM ( 3 hours ago )
Unicoi offering aerial adventure park beginning Thursday
Just in time for summer, Unicoi State Park and Lodge has rolled out its new aerial adventure park.
3:03PM ( 8 hours ago )