Local legislators introduced bills on Monday, March 20, to create two new local authorities. They are the Henry County Facilities Authority and Henry County Airport Authority. Both authorities are legislative requests by the Henry County commissioners. The new authorities would be able to issue revenue bonds — used to construct capital projects.
Both bills received a first reading on March 20. They must pass both chambers by March 29, the last day of session, if they are to become law this year. Delegation Chair Rep. El-Mahdi Holly introduced the bills with the co-signature of other local reps.
Henry County Facilities Authority
House Bill 781 would create the Henry County Building and Facilities Authority. The entity would be able to construct public buildings on behalf of the county. These powers can include issuing revenue bonds to finance the cost of building construction. Facility authorities then lease the new building back to the county government at an annual lease equal to the bond repayment. The facilities authority board would have six members, comprised of one appointee from each county commissioner.
For example, the city of Stockbridge has an active facilities authority. The Stockbridge authority owns the amphitheater, site of the future cultural arts center off Burke Street, and the police department headquarters. The entity bonded several million dollars to assist in amphitheater construction. The city government now budgets annually this bond repayment.
Henry County is requesting the facilities authority to fund upcoming plans to construct a new courthouse. The board voted in April 2021 to pursue building a new courthouse and jail. The project would be at Red Hawk Park off Henry Parkway. Under such proposal, the county admin office would move to the existing courthouse in downtown McDonough. County documents last year estimated project costs at $200 million dollars.
Henry County Airport Authority
Similarly, local legislation is proposing to create the Henry County Airport Authority. Such body would help fund capital projects at the Atlanta Speedway Airport in Hampton. Capital projects can include, but not limited to, new taxiways, runway extensions and investments into hanger space. House Bill 784 would create the authority.
The airport authority board would be built differently than the facilities authority. The airport authority would have a five-member board under the current proposal. The state house delegation and state senate delegation for Henry County would appoint one member each. The board of commissioners would appoint two members. Finally, the commission chair would appoint the fifth and final member. The chair appointee would also serve as the airport chair. At least four of the five board members must reside within Henry County.
Henry County requested the authority so it can seek additional airport funding. A number of federal funding opportunities for airports close at the end of 2023. Many of these funding opportunities are a result of the federal infrastructure law. The new board would be eligible to apply for these funds. As an added benefit, federal avaition funds typically cover 90% of project costs. The state generally contributes 5% with the county then contributing the last 5%.
Secondly, an authority can enter into multi-year contracts. This can include agreements with private parties to operate a portion of the airport in exchange for capital investment. An example could be a new restaurant and event space within a hanger. This is important because county governments cannot enter into multi-year contracts.
Featured image shows Georgia State Capitol. Wikimedia Commons photo.
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