Committee approves increase in airport funding

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Carroll County Airport will get a little more funding from the county than originally planned.

The Carroll County Quorum Court’s Joint Budget and Finance Committee decided at a meeting Monday afternoon to increase the county’s 2019 appropriation to the county airport commission to $50,000. In addition, the committee accepted the recommendation of District 1 Justice of the Peace Jack Deaton, the committee chairman, to forgive $10,000 of the remaining $19,404 balance on a loan the county made to the airport commission in 2012.

Originally, the committee had recommended a $40,000 appropriation to the airport commission. That resulted in complaints from commissioners who said the airport might have to cease operations without a bigger allocation from the county. The commissioners wanted the county to increase its appropriation to $60,000.

“This is a make-it or break-it year,” airport commissioner Sandy Martin said in a Nov. 21 email to county officials and multiple media outlets. “The Commission must have a multi-year commitment from the County to continue airport operations in the best interest of the county, public safety, service and our FAA compliance mandates. The Commission is asking the Court to recognize the value, success and popularity of the airport, its economic development impact, the public and emergency medical flight service it provides, and the value of the property and asset of the county.

“You appointed each of the Commissioners to be good stewards and managers of your property. The Commission has done everything requested by the Court and then some to make CCA one of the most efficiently operated, compliant airports in the region. The Commission has been dedicated and professional at all levels. The decreasing funding support from the county over the past four years has seriously jeopardized the airport and we have repeatedly tried to explain the impact to no avail. This year, it can not be avoided.”

At Monday’s meeting, Deaton expressed his displeasure with what he described as “threats” regarding the county’s appropriation to the airport.

“They made all these threats about if they don’t get it, what’s going to happen,” Deaton said. “That’s out of our hands. We don’t deal with threats.”

Deaton noted that the commission’s payments toward its 2012 loan from the county have declined from $12,000 in 2016 to $6,796 in 2017 and $1,200 this year. At the same time, Deaton said, the commission has paid Equity Bank $2,900 this year although it owed the county more than the bank.

“I think having good faith and see what they’re going to do in 2019, if it’s OK with you guys, we’re going to split that,” Deaton said. “We’ll give them $10,000 and take $10,000 off the note.”

Deaton said he would like for county officials to speak with a company that provides flying lessons at the airport about potentially taking over management of the facility.

“They have a vested interest in the outcome of that airport,” Deaton said. “That’s just something I’m going to throw out there.”

District 7 JP Noreen Watson praised Deaton’s proposal.

“I’d like to have a win-win,” she said. “That’s a really good suggestion, Jack. I appreciate you coming up with that. I’ve been thinking about it myself after receiving the email, and there’s justification for county money for a lot of different places, so I’m perfectly happy with that.”

“My only issue with it, we deal with probably 30 different departments, and there’s not a one of them that threatened us when we cut their budget,” Deaton said. “I hate to think that I’m knuckling under to their threats. … I may not be here next year. I may be on another committee or whatever. But if I am on this committee next year, the threats are not going to affect me at all. I’m just doing this after talking to a lot of other people. There’s a lot of people taking flying lessons that I didn’t realize there was. This may or may not affect them directly.”

Watson said she also was disappointed in the airport commissioners’ response to the budget committee’s original recommendation.

“I personally did not like all the pressure that was put on us about this,” Watson said, saying there are steps the airport commission can take to increase its revenue, such as increasing its rental rates for hangar space. “… I did not appreciate the pressure.”

Also at Monday’s meeting, the committee discussed potential salary adjustments for some employees in the offices of the county clerk, county assessor, county collector and circuit clerk’s office. Deaton said there are some instances of wide disparity in pay between employees performing similar duties. In addition to any adjustments in those departments, employees in those departments also would be included in the the committee’s recommendation that all county employees receive raises of 70 cents an hour in 2019. The committee will meet again on Monday, Dec. 3, to further discuss the salary adjustments. That meeting will follow a special meeting of the full quorum court, set for 5 p.m. at the Eastern District Courthouse in Berryville, to appoint a county treasurer for the remainder of the year.

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