City-funded study recommends airport authority for Charlotte Douglas

City-funded study recommends airport authority for Charlotte Douglas

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by ELY PORTILLO / The Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on April 25, 2013 at 11:34 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 25 at 11:42 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A city-funded study of how best to run Charlotte Douglas International Airport concluded that an independent airport authority would be best, according to a draft released Thursday.

Charlotte City Council has overseen the city’s airport since 1935, although the city has typically given its aviation director broad latitude to run the facility.

City council members commissioned the $150,000 study last month, in response to a push by state legislators to transfer control and ownership of the airport from the city to a new, independent authority. City council has vigorously opposed an authority.

In the 62-page report, Bob Hazel, a consultant with the firm Oliver Wyman, praised Charlotte’s management of the airport thus far. And he wrote that the legislature’s current proposal has many shortcomings and should be changed to give Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, and other local entities a majority of appointments.

Still, he came down in favor of removing the airport from city control and giving it to a new, independent authority.

“Our conclusion is nevertheless that the best form of governance for most public sector U.S. airports, including the Charlotte Airport, is a properly structured airport authority,” Hazel wrote.

He also said that Charlotte should have a large number of appointments to the board, but not a majority.

An independent airport authority would be able to completely separate its finances from the city, act more like a business, devise its own compensation scheme to lure and keep top talent and be insulated from city politics, Hazel said.

Hazel quoted an airport employee anonymously to summarize what he said were the views of many employees at the facility.

“I know my colleagues pretty well and would be surprised if the vast majority did not prefer to work for an Airport Authority,” the employee said.

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