Saturday, July 27, 2013

County OKs agreement with airport board: Lawrence County Airpark (KHTW), Ohio

In a two-to-one vote the Lawrence County Commissioners approved an agreement with the Lawrence County Airport Advisory Board and the Tri-State Pilots Association.

Commission President Bill Pratt was the lone vote against the agreement with Commissioners Les Boggs and Freddie Hayes in favor of it.

“There has been a lot of discussion both ways on the future of the airport,” Boggs said at the Thursday meeting. “This moves it forward to being self-sufficient.”

The stated purpose of the agreement is to “run, maintain and develop the Lawrence County Airpark at no cost to the taxpayer.”

However Commission President Bill Pratt said he saw two problems with the agreement.

“First a local company will be replaced with a company from Columbus,” Pratt said.

Pratt was referring to a previous attempt by the airport advisory board to bring in Stantec Consulting Services Inc. out of Columbus to be the engineering consultant for the airport.

In November the advisory board sought the commissioners’ approval for the change. At that time the matter was tabled for further review.

Since 2001 E.L. Robinson has been the airport’s consultant, charging 10 percent per total cost of any project. For other work such as grant applications the firm that has an office in Ironton does not charge the county.

According to material submitted to the commission in November Stantec’s standard rates were $146.63 per hour for project manager; $106.20 an hour for project engineer and $74.65 per hour for designer.

After the meeting Pratt said, “I think both companies can do the job, but if we have the choice to have a local company.”

The approved agreement states the commission will “remain as the sole controller of the airport and its real estate, (the commission) remain as the financial sponsor for airport improvements. (The advisory board) will remain in the advisory capacity to the (commission) and assume the duties of approving expenditures, enhancing revenues. … All expenses will be approved by the (advisory board) and paid by (the commission).”

Pratt has said in the past he is opposed to the board’s authority over approving expenditures. The commission president is also concerned that the agreement would adversely affect the ongoing eminent domain lawsuit the county has with the Wilson family.

The county is seeking acreage adjacent to the airport owned by the Wilson family in order to meet a Federal Administration Aviation directive to cut trees at the end of the runways. The county has appraised the property at $280,000 while the Wilson appraisers say it is worth $1.8 million

“We are in the process of trying to negotiate,” Pratt said. “If we sign an agreement with the airport advisory board, we weaken our position in the decision-making. (This) encourages them not to negotiate any further.”

At other times the commission president has expressed concerns that a jury may award to the Wilson family more for the property than the county can afford.

“I don’t agree this has anything to do with the eminent domain,” Boggs said.

If the lawsuit would strain the county’s finances because of the agreement, Pratt said. “It is not on me.”

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