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Anniston City Council does its part toward creation of a new airport authority

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Anniston Council

The Anniston City Council poses Tuesday with Oxford Mayor Alton Craft after the Anniston council passed an ordinance advancing the goal of creating a dual-city airport authority. A similar measure was passed last week by the Oxford City Council. Craft is shown at center left in the darker jacket shaking hands with Anniston Mayor Jack Draper. Flanking them are Anniston City Council members, left to right: Ciara Smith, Jay Jenkins, Millie Harris and Demetric "DD" Roberts.

By the time Oxford Mayor Alton Craft posed for photos with the Anniston City Council Tuesday night, the ink was drying on an ordinance representing a step toward establishing a new airport authority to manage Anniston Regional Airport.

The ordinance approved an application that seeks permission from the state to incorporate such an authority.

A similar measure was passed last week by the Oxford City Council. There, Anniston Mayor Jack Draper paid a visit to foster a partnership between the two cities in their goal to create the East Alabama Metropolitan Airport Authority.

“This would be authorizing the incorporaters to create an airport authority pursuant to state law,” Draper said.

The ordinance passed the Anniston council unanimously.  

The airport authority would be governed by a board, and according to Draper, the board members will be Jake Durham of the Oxford police department; David Arnett, Anniston public works director; and Larry Deason, president of Farmers and Merchants bank. Mayors Craft and Draper will serve as ex officio members, meaning by virtue of holding the office of mayor. 

“Ultimately the plan would be for the airport authority to be run by an executive director; those incorporators and members would ultimately vote on that, this is just the first stage in the process,” Draper said. 

At present the city of Anniston runs the airport but soon the control of the facility will shift to the newly created authority, Draper said. 

 “So what would happen, essentially the airport would then be run by this airport authority. All of the assets that are the city’s now would remain the city’s, but if the authority acquires any property, once it dissolves, if it dissolves then that property would be divided by Anniston and Oxford,” Draper said. 

Craft said the deal represents a great regional cooperation. 

“If we are going to achieve our goals we need to come together,” Craft said. 

Anniston Councilwoman Ciara Smith praised the two mayors for working very diligently on the creation of the airport authority and questioned whether such cooperation between the two cities has ever even happened. 

“I just want to know, I don’t know if this has ever happened in our history, it might have — I know it hasn't happened in my lifetime,” Smith said. “The fact that our cities are working together so well — our mayor went to Oxford’s city council meeting, we have Oxford’s mayor coming to our council meeting — that says a lot about where our leadership is changing and how the dynamics are shifting in this county and I’m looking forward to a lot more partnerships in the future.”

Councilman Jay Jenkins also praised the mayors and the fruits of their labor.

 “I think this is a good thing for all of Calhoun County and the surrounding counties,” Jenkins said. 

Remembering Stan Rooks

On a somber note the council took time to remember Anniston animal control officer Stan Rooks, who lost his battle with COVID-19 earlier this week. 

Councilwoman Millie Harris extended her sincere condolences to the family of Rooks and to the Anniston Police Department.

“Stan was always very helpful to me. We created an animal control ordinance, it took about a year to do it, he went to Huntsville with me to observe what they do in Huntsville. Wthout his input I don’t believe we could have had as an effective ordinance as we do have and so he was very critical in helping to create that,” Harris said. 

Smith also extended her thoughts and love to the Rooks family. 

“That is unfortunately a tragic reminder that COVID is still very real, we are seeing numbers decline but please don’t let that be an excuse to not follow certain measures to make sure we’re following protocol and making sure everyone is safe,” Smith said. 

Birmingham developer seeks parking space

During a work session before the formal meeting, a Birmingham developer asked the city for guidance in acquiring some parking spots that the city currently owns. Matthew Fanaei recently bought several properties in downtown Anniston — including the old Calhoun Theater on Noble, the now-shuttered Smoking Moose bar next door, and a generously sized old building at 1101 Noble Street which he hopes to develop into residential living spaces. Fanaei said the only parking places available for possible tenants at the building at 1101 Noble Street are in a lot owned by the city. 

Councilman Jenkins said there may have been an ordinance passed 15 years ago which would allow a long-term lease of the parking spots or outright purchase. The council discussed the matter and agreed to look into the feasibility of providing those parking spots for future tenants of the building.

Fanaei said that crews have been cleaning up the old Calhoun Theater and have taken more than 14,000 pounds of debris from the interior of the building — including a 50-foot tree which had grown inside the building and damaged its roof. Fanaei said he hopes to open some kind of entertainment venue in the old theater, which showed movies from 1942-1983. The Anniston City Council voted in April to sell him the property for $7,000.

Noise advisory issued

According to Jackson Hodges, Anniston public information officer, a noise advisory has been issued due to regularly scheduled training exercises at the Fort McClellan Training Center. The noise advisory — which typically involves the type of explosive sounds made by military equipment — will be in effect from Oct. 21-23.