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Charlotte City Council votes to ‘vigorously’ oppose airport transfer

AIRPORT
TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
US Airways jets are parked at the terminal at Charlotte Douglas International Airport Tuesday, May 7, 2013. TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com/ Aboard NBC Charlotte's AirStar

The Charlotte City Council voted 10-0 late Monday to “vigorously resist any outside, unilateral” efforts to transfer Charlotte Douglas International Airport from city control to an independent authority, suggesting a potential lawsuit.

The vote came after the council met for nearly two hours in closed session to discuss legal strategies.

After the vote, City Manager Ron Carlee said it is “considering all options” to stop the current legislation being considered in the N.C. General Assembly.

“They will do what they need to do,” Carlee said.

When asked whether the city would sue to stop the transfer, Carlee said he has “no comment on litigation.”

Council members have discussed in the past in closed session the possibility of legal action to keep the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration would have to sign off on any transfer of Charlotte Douglas to an authority.

The N.C. Senate has passed a bill to transfer the airport to a 13-member authority within 90 days of passage. The N.C. House is considering a bill that would create an 11-member authority, and would transfer control immediately.

Carlee has said the House bill is worse than the Senate bill. He has said it would send the airport into “chaos.”

The resolution also directed Carlee to study ways to improve the airport.

Carlee has been tasked with making sure airport finances are separated from the city; to make sure the airport’s procurement practices are “nimble”; to allow the airport to have a “compensation system … to attract and retain top talent”; to make sure airport security is the “most cost effective.”

The manager has previously said he would consider making all of those changes, including no longer having Charlotte-Mecklenburg police handle airport security.

The city put CMPD in charge of airport security in December. Airport officials privately criticized the change, which increased costs.

Aviation director Jerry Orr, who didn’t attend Monday’s meeting, has said he favors an authority. A city-hired consultant, Bob Hazel, also said the airport would be best run under what he called a “properly structured” authority.

Mayor Anthony Foxx did not participate in the closed-session meeting. He has been nominated to be the next U.S. Secretary of Transportation, and recused himself due to a possible conflict. If confirmed by the Senate, Foxx would oversee the FAA, which would have to approve an airport transfer.

US Airways, the dominant carrier at Charlotte Douglas, has said it is neutral on the issue.

Democrat Claire Fallon did not attend the meeting.

Harrison: 704-358-5160
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