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Oxford and Anniston will work together to create airport authority

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Oxford Mayor Alton Craft, left, and Anniston Mayor Jack Draper joked about the historical moment when they shook hands and entered into an amicable agreement to work together to create an airport authority to run the Anniston Regional Airport. Such an authority has long been viewed as a way to create more economic development opportunities for the entire county.

OXFORD — The Oxford City Council took a step this week toward establishing a joint operations authority with the City of Anniston to manage the Anniston Regional Airport.

A three-member board would govern what would be known as the East Alabama Metropolitan Airport Authority. One member would be nominated by the city of Oxford, one by the city of Anniston and one would be chosen jointly by the two.

Oxford City Council’s action Tuesday night took the form of a resolution allowing Oxford officials to move forward with Anniston officials to file an application seeking permission to incorporate the new airport authority.

The Anniston City Council is expected to pass a similar resolution Oct. 19.

Thursday, Anniston Mayor Jack Draper was optimistic about what the airport deal represents.

“I think the leadership in both cities recognize that we’re far stronger working together than independently,” Draper said. 

“Forming an authority like this gives actual evidence of that, it shows that we really are working together and I appreciate that partnership,” he said.

Draper also said Thursday he thinks the creation of the airport authority will attract a regional airline carrier.

“[The airport] will be a true regional asset since it will no longer be in the hands of one city. It signals to developers as well that we’re working together,” he said.  

At Tuesday’s Oxford council meeting, Oxford Mayor Alton Craft and Draper shook hands to signify their commitment to work together.

“This is good for regional economic development,” said Anniston’s mayor, who rose to speak in the Oxford council chamber. “We need to put our money where our mouth is. The airport has been a regional asset.”

In the recent past, Anniston has had problems running the airport. In April, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed a $1.56 million fine against the Anniston city government. There was no discussion at the council meeting Tuesday about whether the fine had been paid, but Anniston City Manager Steven Folks, who was also present at the Oxford meeting, has been working with lawyers to cooperate with the aviation administration.

As previously reported in April, Anniston city’s staff had not kept up with training on how to drive on the flightline, how to inspect fuel operations, and how to create a wildlife management plan.

Owned by the city of Anniston but surrounded by Oxford city limits, Anniston Regional Airport lies southwest of I-20 exit 185, with the runway situated roughly parallel to the path of the interstate. It is used now mostly for private and a few military planes.

In other business

After other discussions, the council passed a resolution authorizing an agreement with the Alabama Association of Fire Chiefs Mutual Aid Consortium.

Oxford Fire Chief Gary Sparks said a problem arose when a hurricane struck the Gulf Coast last year when there was no agreement in place for other emergency agencies to assist that area.

“The Alabama Mutual Aid System had fallen apart,” Sparks said. “We are trying to take it on ourselves and get every department willing to sign on to a mutual aid agreement.”

Councilwoman Charlotte Hubbard continued a discussion about recycling in Oxford from a previous council meeting. She said a small number of Oxford companies are recycling cardboard, and the amount they have collected proved that the city could make money selling recyclables. She suggested purchasing a baler, baling the cardboard and storing it until there is an amount worth a company’s time to purchase and pick up.

Another item of discussion concerned Hell’s Gate Pedestrian Bridge, which is located near the south end of the lake at Choccolocco Park. At this time, the bridge is closed due to its dangerous condition and to replace the bridge would cost $400,000. During the meeting, the council passed a resolution authorizing a submittal for a Recreational Trails Program Grant.

Craft issued a proclamation to honor 1st Lt. Jacob Shake, an Oxford resident who served during the noncombatant evacuation operation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. He received a framed proclamation and a flag that had flown over the United States Baghdad Embassy Compound in Baghdad, Iraq.

The city held a public hearing to rezone property at 0 Peaceful Valley Road from Agriculture District to Residential District. There were no dissents, and the council passed a resolution allowing the change.

The council members also informally agreed that the city's official trick-or-treat night in connection with Halloween should be Saturday, Oct. 30.

The City Council also handled these routine matters:

  • Authorized retaining a legal representation for the former Oxford Emergency Medical Service Board members.
  • Appointed Boyce Turner to serve on the Oxford Water and Sewer Board.
  • Awarded a bid for concrete pipe to Foley Products.
  • Established a Signage Improvement Program.
  • Appropriated $16,307 for recycling materials.
  • Placed liens on more than a dozen pieces of property.

Note: This article has been updated since its original publication on the website. It now includes additional comments from Anniston Mayor Jack Draper.