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Monroe wants to protect its airport from new authority board

Monroe officials want to ensure that the city’s airport does not fall under the jurisdiction of a new Charlotte regional airport authority, and they are asking state lawmakers this week to clarify wording in pending legislation.

The city of Concord already has made a similar pitch concerning its airport, as have Lincoln and Iredell counties. The controversial bill would shift control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport from the city to a regional authority board.

Under the plan, the counties surrounding Mecklenburg – Union, Cabarrus, Gaston, Lincoln and Iredell – would each get to appoint a person to the new, 13-member authority board. But regional officials remained concerned that other language in the bill could be interpreted as giving the authority control over their airports, even though the bill’s sponsors say that is not the intent.

“The city has worked hard and invested large amounts of local tax funds to position the airport for economic growth which will benefit not just Monroe but all of Union County and the region,” Monroe Mayor Bobby Kilgore wrote in a draft of the letter to the city’s local legislators. “We believe giving the Charlotte Regional Airport Authority oversight and control over the Monroe airport will be an impediment to continued development efforts.”

Concord City Manager Brian Hiatt said that city’s local delegation is working with the bill’s sponsors to clarify the language. The state Senate approved the bill in March, and it is now before the House.

In his letter to legislators, Concord Mayor Scott Padgett wrote that the bill’s wording caused anxiety for the city.

Although the bill’s intent might not involve control of Concord’s airport, he wrote, “We do not know what will happen when this authority is appointed and they start deciding what their mission should be. … Local citizens should have the right to keep operational control of their airport.”

Neither Monroe nor Concord took a formal stand on the legislation, but commissioners in Union, Gaston, Lincoln and Iredell all backed resolutions supporting the plan.

Officials from those counties said the Charlotte airport is a regional asset and they wanted to have a say in how it is run. That drew the ire of Charlotte leaders, who said they felt betrayed by their neighbors.

In their resolutions, Iredell and Lincoln counties said they supported the bill as long as the language was clarified that their local airports would not be affected. County leaders said they have received assurances from area legislators that the wording will be changed.

Cabarrus County commissioners are expected to consider whether they will support the airport authority bill at their May 20 meeting.

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