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Airport authority chair resigns at county meeting

Special to SEGAZINE

The airport authority will again be looking for a new chairman after long-time member Billy Lee announced his decision to step down from the position at Thursday night’s regular meeting of the Brantley County Board of Commissioners.

In a letter that Lee presented to commission chair Charlie Summerlin, he said that he wanted to take the extra time to be with family.

Lee took over after the sudden departure of Mary Gibson following strong disapproval by the board that stemmed from the authority’s decision to hire its own attorney to handle bonding agency legal issues.  Commissioners later expressed concern with being stuck with a high attorney bill and other fees on an item they did not approve.

The legal issues, though now settled, have played an ongoing role in a sour relationship between the two groups., which culminated in the board’s decision to request that the state disband the authority earlier this year, though at this time the authority still exists.  Board members planned to replace the authority with an advisory board that reports directly to the commission.

This week’s actions by the county erupted from similar concerns when the authority accepted a bid for apron expansion work that only came to light following a pre-construction hearing last month – over a year after the bids were opened.  The authority also requested an infusion of cash from the general fund that commission commissioner Mike Edgy said was an example of something he didn’t like seeing so often from the authority.

Despite this, commissioners approved the transfer and the low bidder for the project which will be funded with over 90 percent state and federal funds designated to the county for airport development.  County officials were notified of the per-construction hearing and appropriate actions and hearings were held.

Though the year-old bid issue only came to light in the recent meeting, Lee has been a regular attendee of county meetings in his capacity as chairman regularly bringing updates on the airport project and requesting payment approval for various phases.  The process began early in his chairmanship and many of the issues that most disturbed commissioners began with Lee’s predecessor Gibson.

County Attorney C. Deen Strickland reiterated his appreciation for Lee during legal issues with the county because of his extensive knowledge of the projects.

County manager Carl Rowland last Tuesday said at the work session that he had been kept in the loop on airport authority items since taking his position.

More from the commission meeting in next week’s Brantley Enterprise. On stands each Wednesday.

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