Thursday, October 17, 2013

Board takes steps to shore up Williamsburg-Whitley County Airport's finances

The Williamsburg-Whitley County Airport Board of Directors took steps Tuesday to get its financial house in order by replacing its former bookkeeper after learning earlier this month that the airport is broke, creditors were knocking at the door, billing was spotty and financial records were disorganized and incomplete.

During a special meeting, board members voted unanimously to hire local businessman Don Strickland as the new bookkeeper, essentially ousting former bookkeeper Rebecca Steely in the process.

“Rebecca Steely is no longer associated with the board,” interim airport manager Butch Housman, also a member of the board, said following the meeting. “We want to thank her for her diligence and hard work. She’s done a lot for the board over the years.”

During the board’s last regular meeting on Oct. 2, members learned that the airport was in a grave financial situation. The board had no money to operate. In fact, Steely said at the time its main account was overdrawn.

After a cursory look at the most recent fiscal year financial report, Strickland said there were a few odd things he noticed about the airport’s finances. For instance:

• Last year, the airport actually lost money on fuel sales. Also, fuel inventory never changed, according to records, over the entire year.

• Two one-year loans the board has with separate banks — one for roughly $268,000 and the other for $270,000 — saw no decline in their principal since payments were only made on interest.

• Invoicing to local governments for funding was spotty.

• No general ledger sheets or other financial records were provided to corroborate the financial statements.

Board Chairman Tim Mays, who took over leadership of the board on Oct. 2, said Steely has agreed to work with Strickland to provide all necessary financial documents.

“We don’t have everything yet, but she said we can get them,” he said. “We are basically just moving to a new bookkeeper and she’s OK with that. We are trying to do as many things as we can from a fresh start … out there and above board.”

Mays noted that fuel sales are going to be more closely tracked in the future and noted that poor recordkeeping had caused the loss last year in fuel sales. He said improper billing to Air Evac Lifeteam — a medical helicopter service that operates a base at the airport — forced the company to pay an estimated cost for its fuel purchases.

“We are going to become much more aggressive as a board in needing spot on, up-to-the-minute information,” Mays said. “The system [Rebecca] was using probably wasn’t attuned to that form of accounting.”

Strickland does bookkeeping for some local law firms, and is also the bookkeeper for the Whitley County Public Library Board of Directors. He is owner of Hollywood Video in Williamsburg and is a retired auditor from the Kentucky Revenue Cabinet.

He agreed to work for two months at $15 an hour, a request the board approved. At the end of the two-month period, the board will review whether to hire him permanently at a set monthly fee.

One problem that was resolved for the board this week was money owed by the City of Williamsburg to help support the airport. The city has committed to providing $8,000, but officials said last week that hasnt' been paid in three quarters because the airport did not provide proper financial statements to the city. On Monday, the statements were provided and the city paid the airport board $32,000.

In other business, the board:

• Approved a seven-point plan to get a handle on its financial situation which included hiring Strickland, appointing Maureen Baird as Treasurer, opening a new bank account, giving authority to sign checks to certain members and allowing for electronic access to accounts.

• Set its fuel price at $4.95 per gallon, which board member Mike Colegrove said is the lowest around. The move was done, Mays said, to attract plane owners to the airport as a refueling destination.

• Heard reports about the need to repair and maintain the airport’s septic system and leach beds. Also, Housman updated the board on progress towards maintenance issues. Official actions on the reports are expected at the board next regular meeting.

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