Dalton City Council expected to vote on air show agreement on Monday

Dalton City Council members could decide Monday if the Dalton Municipal Airport will host an air show next May.

City Administrator Jason Parker said he expects a final agreement between the city and a Rome-based promoter for a proposed “Wings Over Dalton” air show will likely be voted on by the City Council when it meets at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

John Cowman, president of JLC AirShow Management in Rome, pitched the idea to the council in August.

In September, Dalton Municipal Airport Manager Andrew Wiersma and Margaret Thigpen, executive director of the Dalton Convention & Visitors Bureau, briefed members of the city’s Finance Committee on a tentative deal with Cowman for a May 9-10, 2020, air show at the airport. The Finance Committee consists of City Council members as well as Parker and Chief Financial Officer Cindy Jackson.

"I don't know if all of our questions have been answered," said council member Gary Crews. "But I think enough have been answered to bring it to a vote."

As part of the deal, Cowman cut his request for “seed money” for the show to $50,000 from $100,000. The city would provide that money from its share of the hotel/motel tax charged when people stay in local hotels and motels.

When Cowman pitched the idea to council members in August, they said they were reluctant to commit taxpayer dollars. But in September, some council members signaled that they are OK with the use of hotel/motel tax funds.

“Those funds are not paid directly by city taxpayers,” council member Denise Wood said at the time. “And the purpose of that tax is to help bring people into the community to stay at our hotels and eat at our restaurants, and I think this will do that.”

"It (the air show) could generate 1,200-1,300 total room nights," said Thigpen, generating an economic impact of about $200,000.

But council member Annalee Harlan said Thursday she still has concerns about the "internal" costs to the city, such as providing police and fire protection for the event.

Estimates provided to the Finance Committee were that the costs for fire and emergency medical services would be $11,250 and the costs for police protection would be $20,000.

"If we could find a corporate sponsor, or the promoter could push a corporate sponsor our way to offset those costs, that would make a big difference," she said. "I understand it takes a long time to book those specialized folks to participate in air shows, but I would want more time to look at the terms of the deal."

JLC AirShow Management presents air shows across the nation, including in Rome for the past eight years. The shows typically feature flying demonstration teams from the United States military, such as the Air Force F-22 Raptor team, or military demonstration parachute teams such as the Special Operations Command Para-Commandos team, as well as airplane races and musical performances.

"I can't officially communicate with the performers until we have signed an agreement," Cowman said.

Cowman said the show would draw people from an 80-mile radius around Dalton.

"I think we can draw in the 50,000 range," he said. "It's hard to gauge with the first show."

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