The civilian joint-management board that governs MidCoast Regional Airport met Wednesday to discuss a facilities use request.
Richard D. Hayes, an air-traffic controller at the airport, presented a request to hold a private event at the airport to the board’s members, Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver and Liberty County Development Authority Chairman Allen Brown.
“We are soliciting to use the airport facility; we think it will be beneficial,” he said. “We are willing to be the test guinea pigs on, maybe in the future, opening the place up for events.”
Hayes said he would like to hold a banquet celebrating his daughter’s 16th birthday at the facility. The event would be planned during non-peak hours.
Thomas, McIver and Brown questioned him about security and crowd control. Hayes said the event would be invitation-only and asked them to specify exactly how much security they believe is required.
Thomas said he was concerned about the potential for uninvited guests to arrive and create problems, similar to a situation that recently occurred at a county park where shots were fired.
Thomas and LCDA CEO Ron Tolley said that both of their organizations have guidelines in place for facilities use, but Carmen Cole, LCDA director of finance and administration, said the board expressed curiosity about how other airports handle such requests.
The board approved the request, with a provision that an off-duty officer with jurisdiction at the facility be present and that Hayes complies with requirements set forth in a letter from LCDA attorney Kelly Davis.
The board also discussed a request from a prospective LCDA business to consider acquiring an easement adjacent to the airport for future uses.
The meeting did not address some of the board’s unresolved issues from the fall, including its future with ABS aviation management services, a potential flight school or proposed flooring work.
In August, the board agreed to do a cost-analysis study to determine whether to contract again with ABS, which provides third-party staff and management for airport operations. At the time, board members said they were not satisfied with the services the company was providing, and they agreed to extend the contract for six months — until February — while they researched alternatives.
After the meeting, Cole said the board agreed by email and phone communications to extend the contract on a month-to-month basis, but that they need to address the issue in an upcoming meeting.
Cole and Tolley also spoke after the meeting about a flight school that gave presentations last fall about opening flight operations and a CATS testing center at MCRA.
The school, MidCoast Aviation Services, presented proposals before both the local board and the military players in September. However, Tolley said they pulled their proposal shortly after.
MidCoast Aviation consultant Kathy Boykin said Friday that the company chose to launch operations out of the Smith-Reidsville Municipal Airport to maximize its offerings.
Boykin said she felt a warm reception from the civilian side, but that when the company leaders began discussions with the military, they saw that their ability to function would be limited. For example, air drones coming to Wright Army Airfield and Fort Stewart would prevent the flight school from operating during certain times.
Another obstacle was that airport officials did not want to provide any CATS testing that is not aviation-specific, which would have limited the utility of the testing center, Boykin said.