Warren County Memorial Airport has received approval from county commissioners to cease its negotiations to acquire 6.16 acres from a neighbor and take flight with eminent domain.
The full Warren County Commission met Monday night and approved a resolution “authorizing the use of Warren County funds to supplement the cost of the expansion of the Warren County Memorial Airport and to authorize the county attorney to initiate the condemnation litigation.”
According to airport manager Richard Crawford before county Economic and Agricultural Development Committee members, the airport requires a resolution from commissioners in support of taking the land by eminent domain in order to proceed because the airport receives some funding from county government.
The measure passed 20-3. Commissioners Michael Shane Wilcher, Blaine Wilcher and Kenny Roberts voted against. Absent was Commissioner Billy Earl Jones.
Michael Shane said he felt commissioners didn’t have enough information.
“Much like the water heater inspection fee of last year, the commission is being asked to vote on something most of us have little to no knowledge about,” he said. “I asked 15 questions three weeks ago. I was told all my questions would be answered and I still await those answers.”
Meeting on May 7, county Economic and Agricultural Development Committee members voted to unanimously accept the resolution and forward it to the commission.
During that meeting, Michael Shane said he understood the airport had no other site available.
He changed his stance Monday night and referred to the airport’s efforts to take the land by eminent domain as “government overreach,” insinuating a vote in favor would reflect approval for such actions.
“Commissioners, if you have been supplied all the information needed to make an informed decision, vote and show the people of Warren County how you feel about government overreach,” Michael Shane said.
Blaine Wilcher and Roberts gave no reasons for their stance.
Crawford says the airport has attempted to negotiate with the property owners since 2008 and all avenues have been exhausted including numerous written correspondences, several meetings with the landowner, hiring a professional negotiation firm, and increasing the purchase offer from $37,000 to $47,000.
The land will be used in a project to extend the runway by 500 feet, says Crawford.
“We need this property to get the runway 500 feet longer,” he said. “Our goal is to try and get larger planes coming in. We sell a lot of fuel. It’s amazing how much fuel that’s sold at Warren County Memorial Airport, which goes back into the general fund. We are about halfway between most of the cities up north and the south, so they usually stop somewhere around here to fuel up. If we can get the longer runway, we can get the larger airplanes. We are losing business to other counties and states.”
Being a resolution, only one passing vote is needed.