The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors Monday voted to appoint Willie Jones as the District 5 representative to the Lowndes County Port Authority board of directors.
District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks motioned for Jones to be appointed in an effort to “put (racial) balance back” into board appointments.
Noting he represents a district with a majority African-American population, Brooks said, “All my appointments are white.”
Seeking to better “reflect the demographics” of his district, Brooks said a vote for Jones would “allow” him and District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith “to appoint whites, and we”ll have kind of a fair board.”
Board President and District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders noted Jones is a resident of District 2 and voted in opposition to the motion.
District 3 Supervisor John Holliman and District 2 Supervisor Frank Ferguson abstained from voting.
Brooks and Smith voted in favor.
Mike Hainsey, Golden Triangle Regional Airport executive director, whose term on the Port Authority board was up, had applied for reappointment to the board. Brooks noted Hainsey had been a good board member.
Jones will serve a four-year term.
Raymond Road closing
Following a public hearing during which several property owners spoke, the Board of Supervisors also voted to table a request to close a portion of Raymond Road, until the property owners meet with officials from the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link, the Airport Authority and the Lowndes County Industrial Development Authority.
The supervisors held the public hearing to gain input on closing a portion of Raymond Road, 300 feet west of Airport Road to the intersection of Billups Gate Road.
Raymond Road is a gravel road, a portion of which parallels Charleigh Ford Boulevard and traverses the GTRA, which owns the land on both sides of the airport.
Raymond Road intersects Billups Gate Road on the west side of the airport, in the northwest corner; the portion to be closed is about 1,300 feet of road.
Hainsey said the request was made to ensure “safety and security” when planes are moved, for maintenance purposes, by Stark Aerospace, which has a facility north of where the road would be closed and will build a road — across the portion of Raymond Road to be closed — to move the planes.
Stark Aerospace likely will construct the “taxiway” “within a month,” Hainsey added.
“Even if the road is not (permanently) closed, it will have to be temporarily closed each time one of those aircraft go across,” Hainsey said, noting several aircraft are expected to cross the road each day.
Representing nearby property owners, Randolph Lipscomb protested closing the road will “reduce access” to the owners” property.
Noting the limited access is of “substantial concern” to the owners, Lipscomb suggested the board take the matter under advisement until the long-term plans of the airport and industries located in the area could be ascertained.
“The county built a four-lane highway that”s supposed to take the place of Raymond Road,” said Sanders, referring to Charleigh Ford Boulevard. “We”re not closing all of Raymond Road, just a portion of it.”
Other property owners who asked for more information before the supervisors voted included Rufus Ward and Chuck Billups, whose family has owned property in the county for many years.
“What”s next?” Billups asked. “What do you think is going to happen (in the area) in the next 20 to 30 years?”
“We have not been told anything,” said Sam Pilkinton, who owns property west of the airport. “Nobody could have been more cooperative with the county than the Pilkinton family. We need to be informed of long-range plans and how it affects everybody. (Closing Raymond Road) would adversely affect our operations, because it would increase travel time.
“(We) object to closing the road until landowners have been informed what”s going on and how our lives will be affected, instead of reading about it in the Sunday paper.”
The matter was tabled until the next meeting of the Board of Supervisors, April 15.
The landowners likely will meet with officials before the next meeting.
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