Commissioners approve management for Tara Field

Henry County is moving forward with an interim management agreement, to oversee operations at its newly acquired airport.

The Board of Commissioners recently approved a six-month interim contract with AvPORTS Management, LLC. The Virginia-based company, part of Aviation Facilities, Inc., will provide services for aviation management, daily operations, and consulting for Tara Field, in Hampton.

AvPORTS has 80 years of experience providing management-related services to general-aviation and commercial-service airports, according to county spokesperson, Julie Hoover-Ernst. The company has previously worked for Albany International Airport and Westchester County Airport, both in New York; Atlantic City International Airport, in New Jersey; and San Bernadino International Airport, in California.

Hoover-Ernst said AvPORTS will be responsible for services such as fueling, hangar usage and marketing efforts to encourage new tenants at the airport.

"It's important to note that this six-month agreement is at no cost to the county for the professional services that will be provided," said County Attorney LaTonya Wiley, during a recent commission meeting. "There is an approved operating budget that you approved, a month or so ago, with respect to the airport, and those expenses will be run accordingly. The only other expense that, perhaps, would be included, that is not in our current budget, would be the cost of a general manager."

Wiley said AvPORTS has proposed to offer a general manager, or an individual will be recommended who has experience in managing airports.

Operations of the airport became solely the responsibility of Henry County, after it was acquired in July, from Clayton County.

The purchase price for Tara Field was $17.7 million, with the Federal Aviation Administration kicking in 84 percent of that, leaving Henry to pay $2.7 million. Henry gained 542 total acres of land, which includes the airport, taxiways and contiguous properties, a hangar and 217 acres of adjacent land, which had been owned by the Clayton County Water Authority.

Henry County's talks with AvPORTS were initiated by District II Commissioner Fred Auletta, following the Tara Field purchase. Auletta, who oversees a portion of Henry County which includes Tara Field, said AvPORTS will bring services which are needed at the airport.

"The expertise they are going to bring is something we do not have here in the county," Auletta said. "A lot of citizens have been asking how we're going to run a county airport. This answers that question. We're going to do it with very capable expertise, and we are going to get the services for free."

The company will also conduct maintenance and operations, a noise-mitigation program, billing, and technical assistance, in Henry's efforts to expand the runway.

"From the beginning, Henry County has sought to minimize costs and associated risks of operating the airport for taxpayers," said Hoover-Ernst. "Commissioner Fred Auletta worked diligently to seek out qualified management agencies and negotiate beneficial terms for the county. The resulting contract with AvPORTS achieves that goal."

The spokesperson said the agreement between the county and AvPORTS provides for the opportunity to enter into a long-term management agreement, at the conclusion of the six-month contract.

For more information, visit www.henrycounty-ga.org/airport.