03/01/10 — Goldsboro will drop ownership in airport

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Goldsboro will drop ownership in airport

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 1, 2010 1:46 PM

The city of Goldsboro is turning over its portion of the Goldsboro-Wayne Airport to Wayne County, which will become the sole owner and operator of the facility located just north of the city on Aviation Road.

"We don't get any revenues from it, and we don't put any money into it," City Manager Joe Huffman said. "Basically, we are just turning the operation over to the county. The county asked for it."

The transfer will require local legislation to amend the city charter and Sen. Don Davis and Rep. Efton Sager have been asked by city officials to introduce the bills in their respective chambers.

The action does not appear to be a contentious point, Huffman said. No vote will be needed by City Council since legislative action is required to change the charter to allow the transfer, he said.

"Joe and I have been talking about it for well over a year just in our conversations as managers about this occurring," County Manager Lee Smith said. "We see this as an opportunity to operate the airport as efficiently as possible. We have some great people out there who work for (the county) as the fixed base operator.

"The city of Goldsboro has to initiate this since there will have to be a change in legislation, a change in their charter. They will have (local) bills to come forward during the short (legislative) session. We are pushing to get that done in the early part of the session so that the county will become sole operator and owner of the airport effective July 1."

The airport, hangars, equipment and infrastructure are valued somewhere between $20 million and $30 million, Smith said. It is jointly owned by city and county, and in some cases the Airport Authority. All properties will be transferred to county.

People will not notice a change, other than a new name, once the transfer is complete, Smith said.

"I see this as a way to streamline it," Smith said. "We have been the fixed base operator since September. Part of this fixed base operations period was really for us to get familiar with the operations, what's going on at the airport. The Airport Authority was formed through the charter of the city of Goldsboro and the funding agents of the airport are the federal government, state of North Carolina and Wayne County.

"The city of Goldsboro does not participate financially, but they do appoint some folks. The county has taken on some capital projects and built some hangars and paid for them. But in building them, we knew that we were getting planes or jets that would help bring those investment back, and we have done that."

The Airport Authority will be disbanded once the transfer is completed and will be replaced by an advisory board of three to five people appointed by staff.

The only change that might occur other than that is a new name, Smith said.

He said he is not sure what the name would be, but that hopefully it would reflect a regional appeal.

Smith said the county has benefited from having quality people on the authority who have worked hard over the years for a good, quality airport.

"We just think now is time to make the change, and the city agrees," he said.

The change will not cost the county any more than it does now since it already is the local funding agent and budgets about $250,000 annually for the facility.

"In fact because we will not have an authority, an authority costs you additional money, because you have a secretary, a separate audit, separate organization so it costs you money," he said. "I see this as $30,000 to $50,000 in savings. Even if you take that and invest it in capital at the airport it is going to be a better use of the money.

"Look at the taxes that come in on the planes and the sale of fuel and things like that help operate the airport. An airport is an economic tool. It is a huge economic tool. That is why we did zoning around the airport to help protect people."