County approves airport local bill

Mar. 05, 2013 @ 09:03 AM

Rutherford County Commissioners have agreed to leave the Rutherford County Airport Authority alone .. for now.

By a 4-1 vote, commissioners, Monday night, voted to send a local bill to the General Assembly that keeps the Airport Authority intact but, the bill gives the county some wiggle room for the future.

"The commentary that we have heard is that the board has been doing a very good job at the present time," said Carl Classen, Rutherford County manager. "That has brought up the question if there is a need for change, but we remember how things have been in the past."

Under the new local bill that will be submitted to the General Assembly for approval, the county will keep the Airport Authority in its present form. However the county can, at any time, step in and replace the board with the County Commission if it so chooses.

Commissioners had wrangled with the suggestion of scrapping the Airport Authority in favor of creating an advisory board under the direct control of the County Commission. Such a board would not have the power to excise property taxes or obtain property through eminent domain. Under that arrangement, only the County Commission would be able to do so at the airport.

"We were just trying to find the balance," Classen said.

One commissioner, however, felt that the local bill left too much to chance.

"This thing cannot wind up being like a yo-yo," said Commissioner Bo Richard. "During the 2010 campaign, this was a big issue. This needs to be one or the other.

"It only does a half-job as this is."

The discussion over the makeup of the Airport Authority and its functions came up in February when commissioners directed County Attorney Richard Williams to explore local bill options.

At that time, commissioners said that the issue was not with the current activities or performance of the board in place. At the time, Classen said that the Airport Authority has turned a profit in its fuel sales since taking over operations after the resignation of Amy Thomas of Western North Carolina Aviation in June 2012.

In an earlier interview with The Daily Courier, Airport Authority Chairman Bob Howard said there was not much need for a change considering the positives at the airport since Thomas' resignation.

"My biggest problem is that if it's not broken, why do you want to repair it," Howard said. "We are doing well and making money for a change."

Commissioners argued that, while the current board has been effective, those members may not be in place forever.

"We need to put into place some kind of protection," said Commissioner Bill Eckler.

Even by approving the forwarding of the local bill to the General Assembly, commissioners were cautious to not indicate dissatisfaction with the current Airport Authority.

"I don't want my vote to, in any way, convey any dissatisfaction with how the Airport Authority has been operating of late," said Commissioner Greg Lovelace.

In other business, commissioners:

• approved two changes in its rules and procedures;

• heard a report on single-stream recycling;

• approved a project ordinance amendment regarding the solid waste transfer station;

• approved tax refunds and releases;

• denied a taxpayer request for a refund;

• heard a project update at the Biggerstaff Old Fields;

• threw out bids for Grey Rock Project 8 and re-submitted the project for re-bid;

• accepted a building located at 514 Laurel Hill Road for recycling;

• approved a resolution relating to the disposal of surplus property;

• approved a resolution regarding the 2013 Board of Equalization and Review;

• approved an amendment to the Employee Policy Manual;

• authorized a resolution for a sewer study grant.