AMERICUS — City administrator answers further questions
Sometimes, the best intentions turn sour — case in point would be the renaming of Souther Field Regional Airport to Jimmy Carter Regional Airport.
What is normally considered a great honor for anyone, most especially a former President of the United States — especially for one from Sumter County — has turned into a few weeks of turmoil and bitterness.
Some have been surprised by the opposition, while others have not. And still others see the situation as it clearly is — people do not think alike, and where those in leadership roles who wanted the renaming done only saw the situation as a chance for the home county of former President Carter to honor him — others, those in opposition like Airport Authority Chair Frank Joiner, Rick Urash, flight instructor, and other citizens, saw the renaming of the airport as “messing” with history.
Either way, the event will take place 3 p.m. today with Carter addressing the issues that local, regional and national media outlets have grabbed hold to and ran with.
Americus Mayor Barry Blount was called Friday afternoon after a handwritten note from Carter was released to media by opponents to the name change. The note from Carter said, “’To Rick Urash- I discouraged the City Council and wanted the naming honors to go to Brown Hodges. Best wishes, Jimmy C.’”
Blount refused to comment on the situation to the local newspaper, the Times-Recorder, stating “I defer all comments to what President Carter will state on Sunday.” Blount did state that there was other information, communication between Carter and the City, that was available, but did not offer it for publication.
Not long after that phone call, Blount granted an interivew to a writer from the Associated Press in Atlanta. “He and the city council members thought it was important to name a site after the former president and that he too was surprised to hear of opposition. I think it's just important for this community to honor President Carter and his many contributions to not only our area but the whole country,"according to the AP. "I knew there'd be some resistance but I didn't really know how much. The location is fitting, Blount said, because it was the site of Carter's great-grandfather's farm.”
From Georgia Encyclopedia, at www.georgiaencyclopedia.com, the Times-Recorder found the following regarding Blount’s last statement. “ In 1917 Sumter County purchased a peach orchard and deeded the land to the U.S. government. In February of the following year workers under contract for the government cleared and graded the land, marked out an "all way" landing site, and erected wooden hangars, barracks, a warehouse, a hospital, a mess facility, and service buildings. The aerodrome was equipped with running water, electricity, telephones, and a post office.” Though there was land that came from the Carter family in that area, as of press time Saturday, the Times-Recorder was not able to reach anyone who could verify that the airport site was originally Carter’s great - grandfather’s farm.
Saturday afternoon, Charlotte Cotton, chief administrative officer for the City of Americus, who was unaware that Blount had spoken to the AP, talked to the Times -Recorder regarding the airport situation.
According to Cotton, a few years ago, at a joint meeting of the Mayor and City Council and the Sumter County Board of Commissioners, “the topic of naming something in President Carter’s honor was discussed, and the airport facility was the only location really discussed ... though I do remember the discussion of doing this went back even further ... before Mayor Blount was the mayor.”
She added, “There was talk about naming U.S. Highway 280 from county line to county line in President Carter’s honor, but nothing ever came of that.”
Most recently, during another joint meeting of the County and City entities, the topic was brought up again. “They all felt that the airport facility would be the best choice because it is in the economical development plan for Sumter County as a whole ... and people from all over the country do use the airport ... and we thought this would just be one way to honor Jimmy Carter and to let people know he came from Sumter County.”
Cotton continued, “I don’t remember who specifically brought up the topic in conversation, but once it was brought up, there were no negative comments whatsoever from the city or county officials. No vote was taken, and it was just a general consensus.”
She said, “The Board of Commissioners voted first, then the Airport Authority, and it was not until the day of the City Council meeting that I found out there was opposition. I got a couple of phone calls, and the callers stated they were in opposition to it, and I told them thank you or calling, but I felt like it was pretty much a done deal basically. I told them that the other two bodies had pretty much voted on it, and that I would share their concerns with the council that night.”
Basically “the Americus-Sumter Airport Authority can name the airport whatever they desire, with the backing of the Mayor and City Council of Americus and the Board of Commissioners of Sumter County.”
She also said, referring to questions of how City Council member Lou Chase and Commissioner Al Hurley of the Sumter County Board of Commissioners could be allowed to vote twice in such a situation. “Both of these individuals were appointed by their entities they represent to sit on the Americus Sumter Airport Authority, as voting members.”
Cotton continued, “My hope is that today’s event will go smoothly, for President Carter’s sake.”
The renaming of Souther Field Regional Airport will take place at 3 p.m.
AMERICUS — City administrator answers further questions
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