Commissioners are establishing control of the airport so that it can operate like a county department, according to Chair Marshelle Thaxton.
He said that, in the past, the entire facility has been leased. However, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has advised that this procedure is no longer viable.
Part of the problem, Thaxton said, is that each of the two leases at the airport is different.
“Federal regulations specify that we must treat everyone the same and – in their opinion – we were not,” he said.
To resolve this issue, commissioners started at ground zero and are working on a set of rules and regulations that meet FAA specifications. The document will include procedures for lease agreements with groups such as skydivers.
County Manager Clinton Lester said common knowledge is that one of the parties (skydivers) leasing airport property has raised questions about fairness.
“We felt it would be better to establish a written guideline for everyone that uses the airport,” he said.
In the past, the property was leased to companies and individuals.
“We are moving beyond that,” Lester said. “The board is establishing new rules and regulations for anyone that uses the airport. Our hope is that these changes will improve the operation so that it will be more efficient and economical.”
Board members, during Thursday night’s work session, discussed whether or not to establish a common area for skydivers to drop and land or to lease it to a skydiving organization.
A decision must be made whether Polk will divide or keep 12 acres as a drop zone. The property is now leased to Atlanta Skydive.
“Whether or not we want to admit it, skydiving is an aeronautical activity like flying an airplane,” Lester said. “We must treat them the same as we do everyone else.”
The group also discussed the manager’s role at the airport and viewed rules for insurance, hangers, fire control and fees.