House Bill Aims to Re-clarify Bay County Airport Authority Jurisdiction

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A bill making its way through the state House aims to more precisely define the Bay County Airport Authority's jurisdiction.

Board officials say it makes the current law regarding jurisdiction less confusing, but some local airport opponents say the legislation carries a hidden agenda.

Walton County House member, Don Brown, is sponsoring House Bill 1677, which changes the legal terminology of the original act governing the Bay County Airport Authority.

The bill amends a number of things including the Airport Authority's name, but it's an amendment to remove the current legal boundaries in the original act that has airport opponents upset.

If passed the Airport Authority's new boundaries would include all of Bay County. It would also allow the board to acquire land outside of Bay County with the approval of the county or city where the land is located.

Airport opponents say the bill gives the airport authority free rein to build a new airport.

"The unspoken agenda is that they are spending millions of public dollars on St. Joe property, that they don't own or lease out in West Bay area. They're trying to get ready to build an unwanted, unneeded airport. So the bottom line on this bill is it's designed to clean up behind them to make them legal for what they've been doing all this time," says Frank Gorham, of Friends of PFN.

Airport Director, Randy Curtis, says the current charter already gives the board the authority to acquire land in Bay County. The bill just clarifies that power.

The bill was unanimously approved by the House's Local Government Committee, and is now being placed on a special order calendar.