JPs will recommend more money for airport

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Carroll County Airport Commission's appeal for additional funding from the county's governing body garnered some support Thursday during a joint meeting of the Quorum Court's Budget and Finance Committees.

At the suggestion of Justice of the Peace Lamont Richie, committee members agreed to recommend that the full Quorum Court approve an appropriation of $6,900 per month to the Airport Commission beginning March 1.

That would bring the county's total commitment to the airport commission for 2015 up to $77,000 -- an increase of $29,000 over its initial appropriation of $48,000 for the year.

The committee also will recommend that the airport commission use a portion of that appropriation to hire an airport manager. Unlike previous arrangements, however, committee members said the airport manager will not be considered a county employee, and the airport commission will be solely responsible for all expenses related to the position, including salary and benefits.

Richie said it will be up to the Airport Commission to set a salary and benefits for the position.

JPs agreed to have Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Devon Goodman draft an ordinance to amend the county budget in time for the next regular meeting of the Quorum Court, which is scheduled for Feb. 23.

The initial 2015 budget approved by the Quorum Court slashed the county's appropriation to the Airport Commission from $84,000 last year to $48,000 for 2015. That total did not include funds for the airport manager's position or for a separate part-time position. Airport Commission Chairman Morris Pate told the Quorum Court last month that he and other commission members have been handling day-to-day operations at the airport because of the budget cuts.

The cuts came after JPs became increasingly frustrated with what they described as a lack of cooperation from the Airport Commission -- particularly regarding financial reports. JPs said they requested those reports from the commission but never received them.

Pate, who became a member of the commission in September 2014, distributed detailed financial reports to JPs at Thursday's committee meeting. He was joined by Sandy Martin, also a member of the Airport Commission.

Richie reiterated that JPs need to see comprehensive financial statements from the airport in order to make informed decisions regarding county appropriations.

"The airport is intended to be a self-sustaining entity," with supplemental funding from the county on an as-needed basis, Richie said.

Pate agreed and cited a five-year business plan that he and Martin submitted at the January Quorum Court meeting.

JPs indicated that they will seek an emergency clause regarding the budget adjustment ordinance, allowing it to take effect immediately if it is adopted at the Feb. 23 meeting.

In other business Thursday, committee members heard from Eureka Springs Mayor Butch Berry regarding a collapsed tunnel underneath the parking lot between The Auditorium and the Carroll County Western District Courthouse in downtown Eureka Springs.

Berry said the situation creates a significant flooding risk and said the city would like to work with the county, which owns the property but leases it to the city, to repair the tunnel. JPs and County Judge Sam Barr agreed to look into the issue and work with Eureka Springs city officials to address it.

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