LaGrange City Council will loan the LaGrange-Callaway Airport $100,000 on a short-term basis so the airport authority can buy some crucial safety equipment.
Two systems, one for weather reports to incoming planes and one for navigation of incoming planes, are at least 20 years old and need to be replaced, LaGrange City Manager Tom Hall said. The navigation system is beyond repair.
“This means incoming flights could choose to land at another airport and our airport would lose that income it gets when they buy fuel and other things,” he said.
The airport has secured a $100,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration but asked for the loan from the city until it can get reimbursed, probably within about six months. The total cost of the equipment is $110,000 – the airport is covering the other $10,000.
The airport recently downsized to seven members and is interviewing candidates for a new executive director. Hall – who has helped operate the airport in the interim – said the airport is now in a stronger financial position and operating debt-free.
“They are on the right path,” he said.
Council also passed its 2012-2013 budget Tuesday night. The budget includes $22 million in general fund expenses.
Here are some highlights of the spending plan:
Water rates will drop: A plan to decrease water and sewer rates was promised by the LaGrange City Council after electric rates went up earlier this year.
Ironically, electric rates also will drop, at least for the next 12 months.
“Electric rates will be reduced about $1 million in the form of lower variable fuel charges that get returned to customers when we get over collected,” Hall said in May. “This is primarily due to lower costs for natural gas.”
LaGrange Director of Utilities Patrick Bowie said in May the average water and sewer bill – residential and commercial customers pay the same rate – will drop about 8.7 percent.
The decrease amounts to about $1.4 million in decreased water and sewer revenues to the city. City leaders, however, had talked about decreasing water and sewer rates to offset an electric rate increase passed in February.
No property taxes: For the 15th year, there are no property taxes included in the city’s budget.
New city staff: A plan to add the job of city planner to its staff this year is included in the budget. Hall said a planner who could specialize in grant writing has been needed for some time. The city also will hire a water-quality engineer.
Dirt is expensive: About $500,000 is budgeted for the city to spend on dirt. The city’s landfill needs to be covered in dirt daily to comply with federal environmental rules and the landfill site on Greenville Road has run out of fill dirt. Hall said the city is spending about $1,000 a day to haul dirt to the landfill.
There’s a property adjacent to the landfill site with a large amount of dirt, about 500,000 cubic yards. The owner would like to see it removed so the property could be developed. The city would remove the dirt and stockpile it at the landfill.
The city also is looking to buy another property adjacent to the landfill for more dirt. Hall said if the the dirt is bought and the second property is bought, the city will have enough dirt to last the 17-year capacity of the landfill.
Help for outside agencies: The city will grant the LaGrange Art Museum a total of $68,000 to help fund its project of renovating the education building. The museum also is receiving funding from the Troup County Commission and the Callaway Foundation. Troup BELL – Building Early Learners for Life – will receive $18,400. It had approached the city late last year to “warn” of the need for funds as its start-up grant ran out. Other outside agencies also will receive funding from the city.
Also Tuesday, council voted to annex two properties into the city.
The Summit store at 3124 Hogansville Road was annexed into the city as general commercial property to allow the owners to sell alcohol on Sundays. LaGrange voters approved alcohol sales within city limits in March, but the county has yet to let voters decide, and the convenience store already was contiguous to the city.
The city also annexed about 9.7 acres at 100 Pegasus Parkway, already adjacent to the city limit and next to Trinidad Benham Corporation, which is in the city. The company wants the land to expand its warehouse space.