City wants to ground any attempts to annex airport

Gary B. Gray • May 16, 2012 at 9:17 PM

What if Johnson City wanted to annex Tri-Cities Regional Airport?

It could if it owned right-of-way there. Kingsport and Bristol, Tenn., could do the same. But the odds at this point are astronomical since these three cities, along with Bristol, Va., and Washington and Sullivan counties, are the airport’s co-owners. They would all have to agree. Not only would these entities have to buy in, the soon-to-be 12-member Airport Authority Board would have to agree as well.

The Tri-Cities Airport Commission is transitioning from a commission to an authority. With that in mind, the Johnson City Commission will consider a contract tonight that would keep neighboring municipalities from annexing the airport.

As things stand now, a state statute backs up the policy. But it is applicable only to the Tri-Cities Airport Commission. The new contract would shift that policy to the airport authority and be a quicker solution than having the annexation laws changed in the General Assembly.

“An authority is something that’s been discussed since the 1990s,” said TCRA Executive Director Patrick Wilson. “Major cities in Tennessee have operated under an authority for a long time. The commission operates like a partnership, but an airport authority allows for the formation of a corporation. It provides insulation against lawsuits and some financial issues. It also allows the authority to issue bonds. We have issued bonds in the past, but that was with the full support of all property owners.”

Wilson said there has been no inquiry by any entity about wanting to incorporate the airport.

The next step is to make a request for a charter through the Tennessee secretary of state’s office. Once that’s done, the authority could be up and operating by this summer, he said.

Commissioners also will consider an architectural services agreement with Johnson City’s Beeson Lusk & Street for an eight-classroom addition and optional cafeteria expansion at Indian Trail Middle School. The matter was deferred May 3 after commissioners requested further research on expansion possibilities.

The firm’s original proposal was to provide services from the schematic design phase through construction. Base fees for the classroom additions and cafeteria expansion are $77,000 and $22,000 respectively. The estimated total cost is $2 million. The city would bear the cost exclusively from its 2013 capital projects budget, should the proposal remain unchanged.

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