Airport Ends Eventful Year At a Profit
Moore County Airport emerg-ed from the 2005-06 fiscal year with a $206,659 profit as well as airline passenger service.
In the annual report to the Board of Commissioners Mon-day night, the Airport Authority reported revenue of $3,436,907 and expenditures of $3,230,248.
The difference included profits as well as under-budget expenditures.
Before that report, however, the commissioners heard a voice from the past calling attention to airport accounting procedures dating back to the early 1990s.
Mike Griffin, former county finance officer and former assistant county manager, addressed the commissioners during the public-comment period preceding the board's regular agenda.
It was the first time Griffin had made a public appearance in the historic courthouse since his dismissal by a former county manager in 2004.
The issues surrounding his dismissal remain controversial and have led to his successful appeal to the Employment Security Commission for unpaid wages and to a civil suit against Com-missioner Michael Holden for remarks reported to newspapers.
Griffin did not mention that controversy but did respond to information presented at the Sept. 5 board meeting, when the commissioners voted to allow the Airport Authority to use $242,677.95 advanced by the county in the 1990s, when the airport administration was changed and generated a cash flow deficit. The commissioners voted to let the airport use the money as part of its financial obligation in attracting Delta Air Lines passenger service, but established a repayment plan.
In his comments, Griffin reviewed the history of the issue dating back to January 1992, when the commissioners ap-proved a buyout of the operational lease at the airport. He recounted subsequent changes in operations.
Griffin said all financial transactions, including transfers involving the airport and the county's General Fund, were carried out and reported in accordance with government accounting standards.
In closing his remarks, Griffin said his report reflects the fact that appropriate steps were taken in financial accounting for the airport, which needed accurate accounting to maintain annual allocations of about $1 million from the Federal Aviation Administration. He said the report presented at the Sept. 5 meeting gave the appearance that "inappropriate actions" were taken by the staff at that time -- the period in which he was county finance officer and also assisted with airport finances.
Policy pertaining to the public comment period does not call for discussions between a speaker and any one or all of the commissioners. His comments were presented without response from board members, and none was requested by the speaker.
Both Griffin and his wife, Cathy Griffin, had signed up to speak, but when her name was called, she deferred to her husband, an action that enabled him to speak longer than the three minutes allotted to individual speakers. They were the only people who signed up for the public-comment period.
'We're the Doorway'
In his report, Airport Manager Ron Maness told the board that he stresses the importance of courtesy and professionalism on the part of airport personnel in dealings with the public. He said the visitors might include the chief executive officers of huge corporations whose first impression of Moore County comes upon arrival at the airport.
"We're the doorway to our community," Maness said.
Despite a spike in petroleum prices, sales of aircraft fuel climbed to 790,645 gallons, a significant increase over the 574,000-gallon goal for the year. Maness said this was especially significant because the increase came during the year after the U.S. Open of 2005.
In addition, the airport generated $228,363 in property taxes and $72,532 in sales taxes.
The airport employs 30 people, 15 full-time and 15 part-time, whose wages and benefits amount to $745,000. Most live in Moore County, spend their wages here and pay taxes here.
"You have a very safe and very discrepancy-free airport in the eyes of the FAA," Maness said.
Maness said the only glitch occurring in the past year was the sighting of deer in the distance on airport property. He said airport personnel are examining fencing to determine how the animals entered the area and how to correct the situation.
"Otherwise, the FAA is very pleased with our airport," Maness said.
Maness said there is "a tremendous demand for hangars," rental of which generates considerable income for the airport. The waiting list for available hangar space presently has more than 20 names.
In addition to attracting airline passenger service for the first time since 2002, the airport was the scene of several events that provide "excellent exposure" to the public, Maness reported. These included EAA Young Eagles, Boy Scouts, U.S. Air Force training, and a ground school in conjunction with Sandhills Community College.
As for passenger service, Maness said the 76 percent loading reported for July exceeded the goal by 25 percent.
Delta is expected to pause local service in November and resume its pace in March.
Maness said that Moore County has "a strong underlying traffic" in addition to the regular golf traffic.
Although the county is still under the FAA umbrella, it remains dependent upon block-grant funding through the state Department of Transportation rather than receiving the annual grants directly from the FAA. Once the airport can establish a stable passenger service statistic, it should be eligible for the FAA grants, which in earlier years averaged $1 million a year. For the time being, the airport is caught between NCDOT and FAA.
Commissioner Colin McKenzie asked about the prospects of adding flights in the coming year.
Maness replied that such an addition is unlikely, adding: "but I love a challenge."
Commissioner Michael Holden thanked Maness and the authority for "the unbelievable amount of work you put into the airport."
Members of the Airport Authority accompanied Maness and were introduced. Among them was the new chairman, John Owen.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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