County airport bill clears GA

Jun. 21, 2013 @ 05:30 AM

A bill allowing the Rutherford County Commission more leverage if they choose to change the management of the Rutherford County Airport has cleared the North Carolina General Assembly.

House Bill 290 allows commissioners to serve as the Rutherford County Airport Authority, if it deems it necessary.

The bill was filed by Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford, at the request of the commission after a February commission meeting where the board suggested they needed options for the future.

“This board that we have up there at this point is doing an excellent job,” said Commissioner Bill Eckler, in Februrary. “But, they may not be there forever and we need to put into place some kind of protection.”

During the February meeting, commissioners asked County Attorney Richard Williams to explore the possibility of changing the designation of the Airport Authority to an advisory board.

One commissioner suggested that only the County Commission should have the power to levy taxes in the county.

“They have the ability to levy taxes and exercise eminent domain,” said Commissioner Bo Richard. “The only people who should have that ability are elected officials and there needs to be some accountability.”

The Airport Authority has taken over the day-to-day operations of the airport since Amy Thomas of Western North Carolina Aviation resigned the contract as the facility’s Forward Base Operator in June 2012.

Rutherford County Manager Carl Classen said since that point the Airport has begun turning a profit with the sale of fuel.

“They have sold enough to pay back $15,000 of an original $20,000 investment,” Classen said.

At the time of the discussion, Airport Authority Chairman Bob Howard questioned the need for a change.

“My biggest problem is that if it’s not broken, why do you want to repair it,” Howard said in an earlier interview. “We are doing well and making money for a change.”

Commissioners said the issue is not with current operations at the airport, only with what may happen in the future.

Another local bill that passed the General Assembly was HB 326.

The bill added Rutherford County to a list of counties that will require consent before a local government entity outside the county can condemn property inside the county.