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Charlotte’s airport consultant begins sketching out $150,000 authority study

The city-hired consultant who will assess a proposed Charlotte airport authority will release an initial report on April 5, with a public-input session set for April 16, members of an oversight committee learned Thursday.

The committee devoted its first meeting to the study’s process, schedule and final product – which remains ambiguous.

Study leader Bob Hazel said he’s not sure whether to deliver a recommendation or evaluate a range of options to consider. “I haven’t decided how I will answer that,” he said. Hazel added: “It won’t be a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ ”

Hazel is a Reston, Va.-based partner in consultant Oliver Wyman’s aviation, aerospace and defense practice. He’s a former US Airways vice president.

Interviews will begin Friday morning to explore the study’s first phase: why there’s interest in shifting control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport from city ownership to an authority.

City Council members, Aviation Director Jerry Orr and legislators sponsoring the authority bill are among those who will be interviewed, but their views won’t be attributed by name in Hazel’s report.

The study will look at how similar airports are governed and issues involved in a transition from city control to an authority, such as operating costs and bond ratings. A draft report will be done by April 25 and a final version by May 1.

“We want it totally unvarnished, and the committee will make sure that is the case,” said Interim City Manager Julie Burch.

City officials plan to pay $150,000 for the study. State Rep. Bill Brawley, a Matthews Republican who’s sponsoring a bill in the House to transfer ownership of the airport to an independent authority, has said the bill might pass into law before the study is done.

The bill passed the Republican-led state Senate last week, and is now being considered in the House.

Committee member Michael Minerva, US Airways’ vice president for airport and government affairs, endorsed the consultant’s approach.

“Our concern is that there is a swirl going on around the airport,” he said. “We would like to see calm and stability return to the airport.”

The city created a website to post updates on the study: airportstudy.charlottenc.gov.

Henderson: 704-358-5051 Twitter: @bhender
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