Who should have control of the airport? County Board reviews resolution

News-DemocratNovember 22, 2013 

File photo of MidAmerica Airport.

ZIA NIZAMI — znizami@bnd.com

St. Clair County officials are reviewing a 1996 resolution calling for joint control of MidAmerica St. Louis Airport between County Board members and the commission tasked with overseeing daily operations at the county-owned airport.

The resolution calls for contracts concerning the management and operation of the financially struggling airport to be approved by the county's Public Building Commission and the County Board. It also states the commission must provide regular reports of day-to-day operations at the airport to the board.

Republican County Board member Ed Cockrell, of New Athens, has asked the county to check whether later agreements altered the resolution. If the resolution still stands, Cockrell said the commission should follow its direction.

"I venture to say plenty of contracts have been entered into regarding the operation and maintenance of the airport that never came to the County Board," Cockrell said. "I request the Public Building Commission live up to the resolution. ... That's all I ask."

In recent months several instances surfaced regarding future development of the airport, and some County Board members said they were not aware of the developments and felt out of the loop.

Cockrell said he was not accusing the commissioners of any wrongdoing. Cockrell and other County Board members have been pushing for more oversight of the airport since July and believe elected officials should be held responsible for the airport. The seven-members of the commission are appointed.

County Administrator Dan Maher said the resolution between the commission and County Board has "evolved" over a 20-year period.

"It probably bears looking at every once in a while. In essence, the big ticket items have always gone back before the County Board and the majority of County Board members are satisfied with that," Maher said.

The County Board approved the resolution prior to the airport's opening in 1998. The Mascoutah-based airport has not made a profit since it began operations.

Commission Chairman Richard Sauget said he believed the commissioners had done a good job.

"We've tried to prepare things in such a way, especially this airport as the biggest asset, for your approval (the County Board)," Sauget told Cockrell and other board members during the meeting. "You are the ones representing the taxpayer. We are just trying to set the table for good information and recommendations."

The resolution under review is similar to a proposal from four board members, including Cockrell, calling for the County Board to have more control of airport oversight. The other board members sponsoring the proposal include Republican David Tiedemann of Shiloh and Democrats Frank Heiligenstein of Freeburg and Larry Stammer Jr. of Belleville.

The board's Judiciary Committee has postponed discussing the proposal until the next budget year. St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern previously said he opposed the proposal in the belief the commission ensures politics does not hamper business negotiations.

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

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