County steps away from airport dispute

Friday, July 11, 2014

A committee of the Carroll County Quorum Court met Tuesday afternoon to continue discussion of some issues regarding the Carroll County Airport Commission.

The justices of the peace who formed the committee listened once more to both sides of a dispute, but they ended the meeting with the conclusion that the quorum court had no standing to dictate how the CCAC runs the airport.

The committee hoped to intervene between the CCAC and the Ozarks Flying Club, a group of fliers who had leased two new hangars at the airport. The OFC left the airport amid complaints and counter-charges, and the contending parties brought their squabble to the May quorum court meeting.

The two sides had not made any progress toward resolving their difficulties, and this meeting provided a final opportunity for the committee to mediate. After hearing that neither of the parties to the dispute had given any ground, the JPs said they could not dictate to the CCAC.

"We can't get in the middle of this," said JP Gaylon Riggs, who chaired the meeting. "We have zero authority to tell the airport what to do."

JP Jack Deaton agreed, but said, "We need to find out what caused all these problems, because we don't want this to happen again."

Deaton suggested that "personal feelings" were interfering with airport business. He also took up the question, raised by the OFC, regarding the qualifications of airport manager Dana Serrano.

CCAC Chairman Lonnie Clark acknowledged some of the miscommunication and safety problems that contributed to the dispute with the OFC, but he said, "We have tried to run the airport in the best and most efficient manner we can."

Clark said the commission has operated in accordance with its bylaws, and he expects those rules to apply to everyone.

Although the quorum court cannot dictate to a commission, Deaton noted that the JPs control the airport's budget. Other JPs joined in to request better financial information from the CCAC, not just on what this argument might cost the airport, but on all the finances.

"We should be getting full financial information from the airport," said JP Ron Flake, explaining that county government signs loans for the airport and should have accounting for that.

"It's been like pulling teeth to get any financial information from you," Flake said.

Clark promised to send the monthly financial reports issued by the CCAC, and Flake also asked for an annual budget and projections.

The meeting ended with an encouragement for the CCAC and the OFC to meet and try to iron out the differences.

"We can't referee the argument," Flake said, as he recounted the limits on the involvement of the quorum court.

Representatives of the OFC also spoke at the meeting. They have relocated to the airport in Cassville, Mo., but they have continued to express interest in returning to Carroll County. An OFC representative said at the June quorum court meeting that the group will only return if Clark steps down as chairman, a position that JP Tim Garrison called "untenable."

Former airport manager Sheila Evans recounted some of the history, explaining the extra steps the CCAC had taken to court the OFC and a related flight school. She said the commission paid to add a restroom to the hangar leased by the club, and the CCAC also modified lease terms at the club's request.

Dave Teigen, a CCAC commissioner and former chairman, offered some hope for reconciliation.

"There were errors on both sides, and the bulk of the problems were from hurt feelings," Teigen said. "Let's see what we can do to repair the long-term damage."

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