COVINGTON — Covington Municipal Airport will have a new tenant and a rescue helicopter to serve Newton County and surrounding counties as a result of City Council votes Monday.
The council voted unanimously to approve a lease contract with Air Methods Corporation to occupy space at the airport in order to operate a rescue helicopter service that previously has been based in Conyers. Air Methods recently bought out that rescue service company, Global Air Rescue.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Vincent Passariello, manager of the airport described Air Methods Corporation, a Colorado business, as “one of the largest air rescue operations in the United States.”
The company’s rescue helicopter will dock at the airport and be used for airlifting victims to area hospitals during accidents, natural disasters or other emergencies.
“It is a very big plus to our citizens and community to have the helicopter right here close by,” Passariello said.
Air Methods will rent the second floor of the airport terminal and an office downstairs, along with a hangar for helicopter maintenance, Passariello said.
Air Methods will lease the spaces from the city for a monthly rate of $4,550. The lease runs for a five-year term with the option for Air Methods to renew for another five years.
Following the vote on the lease, the council considered whether to approve a contract with Atlanta Fire and Restoration Services to renovate the leased spaces to accommodate the Air Methods business.
For example, Passariello pointed out that responders operating the rescue helicopter will need sleeping quarters on the second floor of the terminal. The Atlanta company presented a quote to the city of $80,147 as its price for the renovations.
City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said that the city asked five companies to submit cost quotes for the project. But it was not done through the city’s formal bidding process because of state law, she said.
Three companies responded — Atlanta Fire and Restoration, Sunbelt Builders and SteelCo Builders Inc. — and Atlanta Fire and Restoration came in with the low bid.
Councilman Chris Smith said that the contract should have been solicited through the city’s formal bidding process, and the city code requires that all projects over $20,000 must be bid through the formal process.
City Attorney Ed Crudup advised that state law pre-empts local law. Because of the Georgia Department of Transportation’s legal connections to the airport, he said, state law applies, and the state requires no formal bid for projects under $100,000.
“If the council wants to put it out for formal bid, we can do that,” Knight said.
I’m just not in favor of not bidding it out under our bidding procedure,” Smith said.
The council voted 4-1 to approve the contract, with Smith dissenting. Councilman Keith Dalton was absent.