End secrecy over MidAmerica Airport

July 20, 2013 

Dan Polites, a St. Clair County Public Building commissioner, said he thinks the public would be impressed with how the commission operates. But there is nothing impressive about its and the county's handling of the Covenant Aerospace Inc. project.

The startup company has ambitious plans for building cargo planes and a business park connected to MidAmerica Airport laid out on its Web site for all the world to see. The county Public Building Commission last week approved spending $15,000 to get a 253-acre tract of county land appraised -- a step toward selling it to Covenant.

And yet after the vote Polites wouldn't talk about plans for that property. Airport Director Tim Cantwell refused to answer questions, and County Board Chairman Mark Kern conveniently was unavailable for comment.

Why the secrecy?

It's not just the public being kept in the dark but their elected representatives too, Republicans and Democrats. County Board member Nick Miller is rightfully angry that Cantwell talked with board members for 40 minutes on Tuesday and didn't mention a word about this project.

Mascoutah Mayor Gerald Daugherty said he hasn't heard anything about it either, even though the city would have to approve such a development.

Maybe Covenant got ahead of itself, but Kern, Cantwell and the commission need to catch up. They seem to think that only they need to know what's going on with MidAmerica Airport and development around it. That would be fine if this were their personal money at stake, but it's not, it's tax dollars.

The elected County Board needs to be involved in the process from early on, not just when Kern and his appointed commission want the board members to rubber stamp something.

This is the public's business, and it needs to be conducted in full public view.

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