Time to let County Board oversee MidAmerica

October 6, 2013 

What's the problem with taking management of MidAmerica Airport away from the Public Building Commission and giving it to the St. Clair County Board? Pleading that the full board is too political is an empty argument. The same political party already controls the board and the PBC.

Besides, the PBC's job is to make sure county buildings have utilities, comply with codes and laws, and are properly utilized. That's a far cry from negotiating with prospective tenants, assessing the future of air cargo, judging the aviation industry's competitive environment and the airport's position in it.

If you look at the county's website, you would definitely get the impression that the PBC is not in the airport management business. Its web page says it is "responsible for maintaining, operating and managing all county buildings except MidAmerica Airport." Airport finances are part of the county's budget, financial statements and audit report -- not the PBC's. Freedom of Information requests don't go to the PBC either.

Given the history -- still owing $60 million on a 1997 commitment to spend $38 million; losing $1.5 million on the bankruptcy of Great Plain airline in 2004; giving $250,000 to an out-of-state developer with serious financial problems in 2011 -- you might suspect that no one is managing airport matters.

I suspect County Board Chairman Mark Kern and Airport Director Tim Cantwell are the lone culprits and just don't want transparency or oversight. It's past time for the County Board and the public to weigh in.

Richard Skillings


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