Airport asks QC for line of credit

Monday, January 23, 2012

BERRYVILLE -- Airport business dominated the quorum court meeting Friday when Justices of the Peace heard from Lonnie Clark, who came forward with several requests.

Clark, who serves as treasurer on the Carroll County Airport Commission, was there with several other commission members to plead their case.

First and foremost was the commission's request for a line of credit to complete a transaction that has been lingering for years.

They are attempting to buy out the remainder of a 99-year lease on land that is county-owned airport property and currently in the hands of a man who lives in Ireland most of the time.

The history of the lease is complicated, dating back to the 1980s, and changing hands over the years.

The commission is nearing the end of a lengthy buy-back process but is $45,000 shy of the $201,000 goal.

Clark told the Justices of the Peace it was imperative they buy the lease back. He said they didn't expect to use the line of credit they were requesting -- but wanted it as back-up should their other options fall through.

Those other options, he said, include securing FAA grant money; getting general improvement funds from the state legislature; or raising the money themselves.

Dave Teigen, chairman of the airport commission, answered questions about the leased land, saying it is located south of the terminal, it is the logical place to build new hangers, and, because of its lay of the land, it would provide most of the fill-dirt required when it comes time to expand the runway.

"Expansion is critical," he said. "As we build hangers, that dirt can be used as fill."

He guessed 90 percent of the runway expansion's fill-dirt could come from that property -- if they can buy back the lease.

Clark and Airport Manager Sheila Evans both answered questions regarding the airport's value to the people of the county -- above and beyond its value to pilots and the local tourist industry.

Clark, who has been with the airport since 1965, said simply, "We wouldn't have a LaBarge without it."

Evans said the airport brought in $2.5 million in grant money last year, money that was awarded to local firms and money that stayed in the community. She also noted that medical helicopters use the airport to transport patients, along with fixed-wing aircraft to carry the critically sick to speciality hospitals.

The JPs gave their nod of approval for the line of credit, saying an ordinance would need to be drafted for consideration at their next meeting.

They did not act on Clark's second request when he asked the quorum court to restore a $30,000 building improvement line item that had been in the airport commission's budget before, but had been omitted. He said there were hangers in need of repair and the commission could use some of the money to pay for model airplane display cases. He said the commission has been offered an extraordinary "museum quality" collection of model airplanes -- if they can provide display cases to protect the collection. He said they are working with the state prison industry on the display case project and have been quoted upwards of $8,000. "That could come out of the $30,000," he said.

Clark also inquired about sick leave pay former airport manager Perry Evans never collected, and an appropriation to shift Evan's vacation and comp time pay so that it doesn't come out of the commission's 2012 budget.

JP Ron Flake responded to the sick leave pay question by saying it would be one of the policies that gets reviewed by a proposed County Personnel Committee.

That committee, to include JPs Lamont Richey, Don McNeely and Flake, has the backing of County Judge Sam Barr, who said he recently appeared before state auditors in Little Rock who questioned $7,700 spent by one department on two cell phones last year, the whereabouts of a $7,700 grinder that likely doesn't exist, and the fact that two elected county officials, himself and JP Dan Mumaugh, both sit on bank boards that do business with the county.

On that point, the JPs passed an ordinance, on its second reading, allowing the county to continue doing business with the two banks because the accounts were in existence before Barr or Mumaugh were elected.

In other business, JP John Howerton proposed that the road department use money in a CD to purchase needed road equipment, road department foreman Devoe Woodworth outlined current and future road projects, JP Flake suggested setting aside money in capitol improvement accounts for road projects and jail and dispatch system upgrades, and Sheriff Bob Grudek presented his annual report.

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