The Greenville City Council Tuesday agreed to take the first step under a new lease agreement between the city and L-3 Communications Integrated Systems.
One council member voted against the measure, amid concerns over the potential future cost to the city.
City Attorney Daniel Ray said the ordinance to establish an alternative construction permitting and inspection fee assessment at Majors Field Municipal Airport was included under the agreement approved by the council in October.
“This is one of the things we talked about during that time period,” Ray said. Under the ordinance, the City of Greenville would hire an employee with a national security clearance to handle all of the paperwork involving permitting and inspections at the airport, with the costs covered by $500,000 per year paid to the city by L-3.
“The city will have expenses that will need to be paid from that,” Ray noted. One of the expenses would be the hiring of the individual who will be responsible for the permitting process, at an estimated cost of around $50,000 per year.
“Over time, that cost will go up,” Ray said.
The city will also be out the permitting and impact fees and other payments L-3 had been making for the construction of buildings and other infrastructure at the airport. However, Ray said the yearly payment under the ordinance would almost certainly be larger than what had been coming into the city.
“It would take a very large building to equal the $500,000,” Ray said.
The employee would be hired by the city and answer to the city manager.
Council member Dan Perkins asked about the requirement that the employee would need a security clearance, when one had never been needed for a city employee handling permits for the defense contractor in the past.
Ray said times have changed.
“There’s a lot of concerns, especially now with hacking by foreign governments which we’ve never had before,” Ray said.
In years past, Ray said accessing the information on the filed permits would have required looking at a physical copy of the document, whereas the permits are now submitted digitally.
“What’s inside those buildings is sensitive information,” Ray said.
Perkins also asked whether there was anything in the ordinance which would adjust L-3’s yearly payment upward, based on the employee’s rising salary or the costs of the buildings being constructed at the airport.
Ray said many other aspects of the lease were tied into the consumer price index, but not the terms under the ordinance under consideration Tuesday.
“It just seems like a losing proposition to me, long term,” Perkins said, before inquiring whether the ordinance could be rescinded by the council in the future.
Ray said the council has procedures under the city charter it could follow to rescind any ordinance, although he did not recommend it.
“That would almost certainly put us in a contractual bind,” Ray said. “The practical answer is no.”
The council voted 6-1, with Perkins against, to adopt the ordinance.