Board postpones key MidAmerica airport decision

News-DemocratOctober 1, 2013 

A proposal for the St. Clair County Board to have more control of MidAmerica airport has been postponed until January, though proponents promise to continue fighting for the issue.

Proponents of the measure say it would place the responsibility of MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah with elected leaders and increase oversight of the airport's finances. The airport is currently overseen by the Public Building Commission, whose members are appointed by County Board Chairman Mark Kern.

Kern opposes the proposal and previously said commissioners ensure politics do not hamper negotiations with business leaders. The board's Judicial Committee postponed discussing the issue on Monday until next budget year, which begins in January.

The proposal is sponsored by Democratic board members Frank Heiligenstein, of Freeburg, and Larry Stammer Jr., of Belleville, along with Republicans Ed Cockrell, of New Athens, and David Tiedemann, of Shiloh.

"I'm very disappointed for the people of St. Clair County who support the board having more control of MidAmerica, which is the vast majority of people," Stammer said of the committee's actions.

"The issue will be back well before then (January)," Cockrell added.

For a brief moment, it appeared a proposal for the St. Clair County Board would be voted upon by the full board.

The Judicial Committee initially OK'd sending the ordinance before the full board but rescinded their approval upon the request of County Board member Roy Mosley Jr., chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

The committee unanimously approved the proposal without any discussion. Kern then asked which ordinance the committee approved.

County Administrator Dan Maher answered it was the ordinance related to MidAmerica airport. Mosley then asked committee members to rescind their motion to approve the measure and postpone the issue, which the committee did.

"Basically, entertaining a motion to table until next budget year," Mosley said. "I think it makes sense to allow one complete budget cycle and allow the Q&A with (MidAmerica Airport Director) Tim Cantwell to test itself out. That's the right thing to do."

Mosley referenced a recent decision by board members to have Cantwell update the board's Economic Development Committee at its next meeting. Kern suggested the monthly meetings as an alternative to the proposed airport legislation.

Heiligenstein suggested the issue be resolved in a meeting between Kern and board members.

"I would like to see some kind of committee meet with the chairman and try to work through this without another big hassle over the whole thing, and see if we can all come to common ground," Heiligenstein said. The Judicial Committee took no action on Heiligenstein's proposal.

The issue has been jostled in board committees since July. At that time, the proposal's sponsors were told it could not be considered by the full board because it was not submitted to the county clerk 10 days prior to the board meeting.

During a meeting of the full board on Monday, board members postponed eight pieces of legislation per Stammer's request because it was unknown whether the ordinances and resolutions were submitted in the 10-day timeframe. The legislation included approving the county's tax levy and six road projects.

Kern said the postponed legislation would lead to a delay in a construction project in Fayetteville.

Cockrell said Kern could call a special board after properly submitting the legislation to ensure the project was not delayed. Kern said he did not know whether a special meeting would be necessary.

"The rules apply to everybody, not just me," Cockrell said.

In response to the postponements, Kern later told the meeting's audience "Welcome to Washington."

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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