Warner Robins council OKs plan to create panel for G-RAMP

WARNER ROBINS — The Warner Robins City Council passed a resolution Monday during a special called meeting that supports a bill that would create a Warner Robins Public Facilities Authority. The authority would allow the city the option of contracting with Robins Air Force Base and other public entities on the Georgia-Robins Aerospace Maintenance Partnership, known as G-RAMP.

Dan McRae, the city’s G-RAMP attorney, informed the City Council that the resolution needed to be passed before the Georgia General Assembly could act on it. With the session slated to end in the coming days, he said the urgency was increased to form the authority.

“This would create a new authority in Warner Robins, which we may or may not use for G-RAMP,” McRae said. “But if we do need it, we’re going to need it badly.”

G-RAMP is a major economic development project to build an aircraft maintenance and overhaul center on 544 acres of city-owned land adjacent to the base in Warner Robins.

The project is expected to bring hundreds of private sector jobs related to aircraft maintenance to the area just north of the base.

The authority, which would be made up of the mayor and City Council, would be able to enter into contracting and financing agreements without the limitations placed on city governments. McRae said the authority would be able to contract with the U.S. Air Force and the state. McRae also pointed out that the creation of the authority protects the city from any liabilities.

The project still has too many unknowns for city officials to know if the authority would be needed yet, he said. The city’s other authorities, such as the Redevelopment Agency, could handle partnerships with private entities if the project moves in that direction.

City Councilman John Havrilla, who was the sole opponent of the resolution, voiced his concerns about the lack of regional involvement in the legislation and the authority’s composition of political officials instead of technical experts. He also questioned whether liabilities eventually could be placed on the city since the same people serve on both bodies.

“It’s a big step in the wrong direction,” Havrilla said.

However, Mayor Donald Walker said Monday’s action only shows support for the creation of an option to move forward with G-RAMP that would benefit public partnerships.

He said it doesn’t prevent regional cooperation, nor does it place the burden entirely on the city.

“It doesn’t obligate us to anything,” Walker said. “It doesn’t point a finger at anyone.”

The other City Council members said they had concerns about financial obligations and liabilities but noted that if they didn’t pass the resolution Monday, they would have lost the opportunity for an entire year.

“You have to start somewhere,” City Councilman John Williams said. “This is the place to start.”

To contact writer Natasha Smith, call 923-3109, extension 236.