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Some officials question $2M airport budget increase
2 mil Airport Budget Increase-Jim Dyer.jpg
Airport manager Jim Dyer answers commissioners who questioned the $2M budget increase requested for the airport during a committee meeting last week.

Warren County Memorial Airport officials requested a $2 million budget increase causing some County Commissioners to question the necessity of it.

Department budgets were discussed at the county Budget and Finance Committee meeting last week and the airport had one of the biggest increases. Last year the airport’s budget was approved for $646,630 and the proposed budget for this year was $2.75 million. The increase is due to a few different construction projects and the airport is expecting to receive approximately $1.6 million in grants. 

Commissioner Cole Taylor found the budget increase troubling because he has heard of a lot of problems at the airport.

“Actually, the airport is not in my district, but I hear a lot of fussing about the airport. Personally, I think the airport could be a money maker. I really do believe that. I think there is potential there, but I think it needs to be managed and operated correctly. For me, it is hard to see that big of an increase in the budget and prove it because of all the fussing that I do hear,” said Taylor. 

Taylor said that the airport could be good if the management and operations were done well and that people are less likely to complain if the airport was actually making money. 

New airport manager Jim Dyer was hired in March and provided his input. 

“I believe I am correct, but I don’t think there is any airport in the state like ours in terms of size that makes money,” said Dyer. “The only ones that do are in the large cities. There is a certain component of what the airport does that is of benefit to the county in terms of attracting industry and providing an alternate option of transportation. For instance there was a Life Flight that came in and picked up an accident victim there a couple of nights ago. We are a site for National Guard exercises where our local guardsmen come to have familiarization with helicopters. There are some intangibles.” 

Dyer also agreed the rent price needs to increase at the airport and that the fuel pricing is tricky.

“The rent needs to go up. I agree with you. The price of fuel is an iffy thing. One of the problems is we are not turning over the jet fuel enough. By the way I was within 200 gallons of solving that problem, but we have to turn over fuel,” said Dyer. “I don’t think we will ever turn profit like a business would.”

Commissioner Scott Rubley said he would like to just see the airport break even in terms of money. Dyer said everything that needs to be done at the airport will be done this year.

“We can do better. I can’t promise to make money —” started Dyer.

“I will be honest with you, I really don’t care if it makes money. I would like to see it wash. I mean we are here to protect the taxpayers. At the end of the day that is what we are here to do,” said Taylor.

The projects scheduled at the airport are: relighting, remarking, and sealing the runway, building a new maintenance building, and repairing the main hangar roof, doors, and floor. The runway project and new building are expected to receive substantial grants from state and federal government. 

Rubley recommended removing $80,000 from the airport improvement line item that was originally proposed at $2.08 million.  The committee voted in favor of removing that amount from that line item and approved the rest of the budget with the exception of non-state mandated raises, which they will discuss at a later date.