Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Airport authority’s 
inaction is puzzling • Grand Junction Regional (KGJT), Colorado

Eager to remove the specter of criminal prosecution from a federal fraud investigation of Grand Junction Regional Airport, the airport board last year instituted several changes to tighten internal controls and improve oversight and accountability.

Those measures were noted in a non-prosecution agreement extended by the U.S. Department of Justice. But the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority has been far less punctilious about shielding itself from civil liability. On Monday, Shaw Construction sued the board — as it had threatened to do for more than a year — over unpaid work on a controversial and unfinished administration building at the airport.

How has it come to this? In April, the Grand Junction City Council — half-owners of the airport — offered to spend up to $1.5 million to complete the exterior of the building. The offer was contingent upon paying contractors for work already done. Is that why the airport board never responded to the offer? What in the name of Walter Walker is going on here?

The city’s “offer” was actually more like a directive. City Councilman Bennett Boeschenstein was very blunt: “Finish the damn building,” he told Airport Authority member Paul Nelson during a council workshop in March. “There’s no excuses anymore. Do it, and if you don’t have the money to do it, come to us and ask us.”

When the board failed to ask, the city put together the offer. Interim City Manager Tim Moore confirmed the city never heard from the airport board, despite the mayor’s request for a “yes” or “no” so the council would know where it stands.

Inaction seems to be the buzzword for all things associated with the airport these days. The feds show no signs of issuing any sort of conclusion over the fraud investigation. No arrests have been made. No indictments have been handed down. The airport board met Tuesday evening and barely broached the subject of Shaw’s lawsuit to collect nearly $330,000 in unpaid bills.

Rick Taggart, a city councilor who represents the city on the airport board, didn’t seem overly concerned about the building situation. He said the city attorney is “in the loop” regarding “progress” on the building.

Progress? All we see is the board dragging its feet to the point of getting sued after the city laid out a specific course of action that would have thwarted such a development.

Obviously the airport authority and the city attorney know something the rest of us don’t. Taggart and the city attorney are presumably keeping the council abreast of developments regarding the exposed building, so maybe our concern is misplaced. But the bottom line is that the airport authority has failed to do anything — even take a vote on the city’s offer, which at least would have given the public some hint of how the individual members line up on the issue.

The city — the only owner of the airport in a financial position to save the building — has indicated it doesn’t want the building razed. The airport authority’s reluctance to take action means the building may degrade beyond the point of saving.


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