County Says No to Funds For Delta
Silence derailed two agenda items before the Moore County Board of Commissioners Monday afternoon.
One item was a request from the Airport Authority for a $100,000 appropriation to support marketing of Delta Air Lines passenger service. The other was a resolution asking the legislature to enact a local-option half-cent sales tax to be directed toward public school capital outlay needs.
"No motion, no action," was the cryptic comment by Chairman Colin McKenzie, whose call for a motion on the airport issue went unanswered.
The commissioners were not silent during the discussion period, when they questioned Airport Manager Ron Maness.
Commissioner Cindy Morgan asked about marketing participation by the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Maness replied that the bureau has contributed $240,000 in the past two years. Commissioner Tim Lea pointed out that funds from the airport rental of hangar space are not returned to the county.
Maness explained that the rental is being used to pay off the debt incurred in construction of additional hangars several years ago. He said the debt should be paid off in May.
"The airport is the economic gateway to Moore County," Maness said. "We pay our way."
Maness said the airport is not presently benefiting from Federal Aviation Administration direct grants because of the five years during which no passenger service was available. Until those funds are restored, he said, the airport has no assured source of funding for certain capital and safety measures.
In addition, he said Delta is devoting a 26-page or larger insert to Moore County in the next edition of Sky magazine, the Delta publication available to passengers on all flights. This special promotion is funded by local businesses, not the airport, he said.
"I agree that the airport is the gateway to Moore County," said Lea. "But is now the right time?"
When McKenzie called for a motion on the request, no one spoke up, and for a few seconds there was silence. Finally Mc-Kenzie said there would be no action because there was no motion.
The commissioners had been asked to appropriate $100,000 for transfer into the Airport Enter-prise Fund. The county allocates funds annually to the airport budget to provide local matching funds for FAA grants. However, a local match is not needed this year because the airport is not in line to receive FAA funding.
Delta began service at the Moore County Airport in June but discontinued the daily flights in November for the slow season. The airline will resume the once-daily round-trip flight to Atlanta March 14. Flights will initially be offered every day except Tuesday and Saturday. Starting in May, a Tuesday flight will be added. During the peak summer travel, flights will be offered seven days a week.
The airport has a two-year agreement with Delta to provide service at minimal cost to Delta.
In 2006, the commissioners appropriated $75,000 to assist the airport with marketing and other costs.
Before Delta's arrival last June, the airport had lacked passenger service since April 2002, when Charlotte-based US Airways Express discontinued service in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and a widespread economic slump.
At the beginning of the Monday afternoon meeting, the commissioners heard a member of the public speak in opposition to the airport request.
Elton Turner, a frequent critic of county budgeting policy, said he does not believe the county should appropriate taxpayer funds for airline service.
"Where is it going to end?" he asked.
Turner said marketing costs should be handled by restaurants, hotels and other businesses that benefit from the influx of customers served by the airport. He said that airline service principally benefits the wealthy and business interests and is actually a liability to taxpayers.
"The county is no longer deriving any revenue from the airport," he said. "This should not be put on the backs of taxpayers."
Turner was the only person to address the board during the public-comment period set aside at the beginning of each meeting.
Also dying for lack of a motion was a resolution supporting legislation for a local-option sales tax for school capital improvements.
The commissioners discussed the resolution at a special meeting last week but deferred action because it was a late addition to the agenda.
However, at the previous meeting the commissioners adopted two other resolutions seeking local option legislation -- one for a land transfer tax, the other for local options for revenue from such sources as a land transfer tax, an impact tax or a sales tax. These resolutions called for the county to conduct a referendum before imposing any or all of these local option taxes.
The resolution before the board this week did not provide for a referendum. It was advanced by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners as one of its legislative goals.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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