Airport Seeks to Give County the Service It Deserves
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
The writer is chairman of the Moore County Airport Authority.
By John Owen
Special to The Pilot
As custodians of one of Moore County’s most important facilities, the Moore County Airport Authority does not have the luxury of dealing in myths. Rather it is essential that we stay based in reality and deal in facts.
At the same time, we believe it is essential for the public also to be aware of the facts, so that they can make reasonable judgments about the airport’s activities. Accordingly it is important to note that a June 1 Pilot article by the mayor of Whispering Pines, Bob Zschoche contained numerous errors and misstatement of facts.
To begin, it is important to understand that the airport is county property. It is not taxed because the county does not tax itself. Improvements made increase in value of the property to the county, but these are not a source of additional taxes.
The airport authority is charged to operate the airport to the best of our ability. We receive no salary or other stipends, except reimbursement for any travel expenses, which occur infrequently. The authority has no interest except to be good stewards of the facility. This includes timely upgrades to improve safety, operational efficiency, and profitability. We are not issued goggles or scarves when we take our oath of office.
We reiterate that the day-to-day operations of the airport are paid for by funds generated by those operations. Some funding from the county is used to help to retire the debt on new hangars and to meet the local match required when we accept federal and state grants.
It is true that over a period of 20-plus years, the airport has used some $30 million for airport upgrades. The bulk of these funds are from the FAA, which means they come from taxes on airline tickets. Such funds are made available to airport facilities all over the country. Local matching funds over this period were about $1.3 million.
It was implied that the upgrades now in progress or being planned are solely to support the 2014 men’s and women’s U.S. Opens. No matter how important some might think these tournaments are, they could never justify spending the amount of money required for the projects. It is true that the -authority is taking advantage of the interest and publicity -surrounding these events to add impetus in moving projects -forward. The projects come from long-range planning and add to the future capabilities of the airport.
We previously made reference to a state study which attempted to quantify the economic impact of the airport to the county. We did not say or imply that all of this value came from airport employees. The big number comes from the multiplier effect resulting from all airport-related activity.
It was stated that airport expansion would have a negative impact on future development at Sandhills Community College. SCC has never expressed any concern to us about such expansion, and we see no conceivable circumstances under which a negative impact would occur.
It has been implied that because of the airport, a major real estate project was withdrawn. It should be noted that this project did not meet Southern Pines requirements and had to be restructured. It will again be reviewed by the town council. The airport authority is fundamentally opposed to this project, because we believe that residential communities in close proximity are not compatible with airport operations.
Getting commercial air service to Moore County has been a long-term goal of the Moore County Board of Commissioners. We never said it would be easy. Still, we believe it is prudent to do everything we reasonably can in pursuit of this goal. We look back to the days when U.S. Airways had 50,000 emplanements in one year. Certainly the market is still here. Therefore, we continue to keep a dialogue open with the commercial service community while keeping realistic expectations.
An improved economy will help. So too will an extended runway. In any event, a longer runway will greatly benefit the bottom line at the airport in terms of increased fuel sales.
Finally, it was stated that the -airport authority spends money to make the airport something it can never be. What the airport authority wants, and the reason it continues to plan and make improvements, is to ensure that Moore County Airport continues to be what every thriving community has or wishes it had: a first-rate aviation facility that has a very positive impact on the entire community.
We note that the Whispering Pines website recognizes the -proximity of the airport in a positive context. We agree that the airport is as good for Whispering Pines as it is for the rest of the county.
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