Our View: Deal questionable at best

Jun. 30, 2013 @ 10:16 AM

No matter how you cut it, the Rutherford County Airport Authority's purchase of property adjacent to the airport is just a bad deal.

The Airport Authority is spending $300,000 for property owned by Rutherford County Commission Chairman Julius Owens.

The price is lofty especially when you consider the county has a tax value on the land and buildings therein of $108,400 and an independent appraiser valued the same property and buildings at $168,000.

Owens, in interviews with The Daily Courier, contends he was doing what he thought was best for his family and the property contains memories and was where he grew up as well as where he raised his children.

That may be, but the fundamental issue here is the fact that this issue should have been resolved years ago and, even if that was not done. The current Airport Authority should have explored other options other than paying an exorbitant amount of money for land and buildings that are valued well under the purchase price.

Officials contend it was a deal between a private citizen and an independent board.

Again, that may be true, however there is a sense of impropriety that just doesn't sit well with us.

Owens is a County Commissioner and has long pledged fiscal responsibility with taxpayer dollars. Whether or not the money used to purchase the property is coming from the county or not, in some form or fashion it is coming from the taxpayers.

A tentative agreement was settled upon in 2010 to remove the three trees in question on the property for the sum of $12,000. That deal was never finalized nor executed. We still get mixed messages as to why that was the case.

But, no one is denying that the agreement was never really looked at after the new members of the Airport Authority were put in place after the 2010 election.

It could be rationalized that if Owens was willing to agree to the tentative arrangement in 2010, he would be willing to again now.

Again, that was never explored and vaguely discussed.

We believe the situation presently has enough blame to spread around.

The current Airport Authority has the obligation to explore any means necessary to bring the airport into compliance with federal regulations. This includes condemnation of a portion, if not all, of the property to remove the trees at a much lower cost than $300,000.

The previous Airport Authority should have stuck to its guns and seen the tentative agreement to fruition.

Finally, Owens, who helped appoint new members to the Airport Authority after the 2010 election, does share in the blame for this issue. As a County Commissioner, he should have done a better job balancing the needs of his family with the needs of the people who elected him.

The question that sticks with us is, if the decision to make a similar land purchase at twice the price of appraisal came before county commissioners, would Owens have voted for that option?

We think not.

By Matthew Clark, for the Editorial Board


The Daily Courier Editorial Board consists of community members Jerry Brewer, Kyle Bingham, Tom Padgett, Dr. Shermaine Surratt and Cliff Strassenburg as well as Editor Matthew Clark