Manager still reviewing Airport reports

Jul. 19, 2013 @ 05:12 AM

With just a few weeks before the Rutherford County Commission hold its regular meeting, County Manager Carl Classen is still reviewing airport documents in order to prepare a report requested by commissioners.

The report comes as commissioners decide whether or not to utilize local HB 290 which gives the Commission the power to serve as the Airport Authority — thus eliminating the current board.

The bill was introduced in the General Assembly in March by Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford, at the request of the Commission and breezed through the House and Senate.

It was not until July that the county began active discussions over whether to enact the bill or not. Earlier in the month, it was discovered that the Airport Authority agreed to pay County Commission Chairman Julius Owens for 10 acres of property near, but not adjoining, the airport for nearly twice the appraised value of the land. The purchase came about because of a tree on Owens’ property that violated the federally-mandated glide slope of the airport for approaching aircraft.

Now, it is Classen that is preparing a report to give commissioners an idea of the complete operations of the Airport Authority.

“The paperwork encompasses everything from grants to projects they have been doing,” Classen said Thursday. “It also includes hangar leases and fuel sales.”

Additionally, Classen is making visits to the airport to gather additional information.

“I want to put boots on the ground,” Classen said. “This is all part of what the County Commission has asked for.”

While he said there are mounds of paperwork and reports to examine, there has been some interesting information he has gleaned from what he has seen.

“One of the interesting things is that the county had a lot to do with the management of the airport before until it was turned over to an FBO (fixed base operator) operation,” Classen said. “When the county provided those resources, it was under the management of the Authority.”

The Airport Authority has served as the management of the airport since the 2012 resignation of the previous FBO.

Currently, the county provides for part-time employees at the airport under the management of the Airport Authority.

“There is nothing wrong with the county providing staff like we do with the TDA,” Classen said. “The difference is there is a management agreement with TDA and there isn’t one with the Authority.”

When they meet Aug. 5, the County Commission will have options to discuss.

First, they can simply enact HB 290 and seat themselves as the Airport Authority. Another option is to leave the Airport Authority as it stands currently.

If commissioners elect to take over the Authority, they would have the option of either handling those operations or appointing a new Authority. They could also appoint an advisory board, if they chose to.

“Regardless of whether the commissioners serve as the Authority or it stays the way it is, a management agreement is something we need to work out,” Classen said.