Why is MidAmerica director getting $13,000 bonus?

News-DemocratJanuary 16, 2014 

File photo of MidAmerica Airport.

ZIA NIZAMI — znizami@bnd.com

The director of the financially struggling MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah will receive more than $13,000 for meeting goals within his contract this past year.

Tim Cantwell, head of the St. Clair County-owned, will receive $13,269 for drawing passengers through the airport and implementing a forestry program that generated $125,000 in revenue.

County officials with the Public Building Commission, which oversees the airport, approved the incentive Thursday. Cantwell receives an annual salary of about $124,000 to run the airport and manage 14 full-time employees. He declined to comment and requested questions to be directed to St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern.

Kern said the incentive was based upon performance and a specific formula within Cantwell's contract. The terms of the contract were set in 2003 when the airport was between hosting passenger service.

Cantwell receives $10,000 for the first 10,000 passengers that originate at MidAmerica and 10 cents for each additional passenger. Last year, 12,699 passengers flew out of MidAmerica.

Cantwell will receive an additional $3,000 for implementing a program that harvests timber from county-owned land at the airport.

"Tim (Cantwell) works diligently daily to improve performance at the airport and honor existing agreements we have," Kern said. "If you look at the mission of MidAmerica airport, number one is to be the best joint-use airport in the country. Tim strives to meet that goal and we believe he does so on a daily basis."

MidAmerica is a joint-use airport with neighboring Scott Air Force Base.

"He helped launch international cargo as well," Kern added. "We just saw plane loads of produce come in and look forward to more linking South America and Asia. That was Tim's vision."

St. Clair County Board member Ed Cockrell, a Republican of New Athens, said he was shocked Cantwell would receive the incentive because the airport is expected to run a $1.4 million deficit in the coming year. Cockrell attended the commission meeting Thursday.

"How sad for taxpayers of St. Clair County...," Cockrell said. "We, the County Board, are asking taxpayers to pay an additional sales tax. We voted to increase user fees to raise $300-$400,000 and to subsidize the airport $1.4 million. How can we give (Cantwell) a $13,000 incentive?"

Cockrell is referencing a referendum on the March ballot asking voters to approve a sales tax increase to fund the expansion of the overcrowded St. Clair County Jail, and the board's recent approval of increasing the cost of some user fees.

Kern said the county was honoring an agreement crafted by Cockrell and other members when Cockrell was chairman of the County Board's finance committee in 2003.

Kern said Cantwell also was instrumental in the successful relationships between the county and North Bay Produce Inc. and the Boeing Co. -- ventures the county "looked forward to not just maintaining but growing jobs" at the airport.

The airport has struggled since it began operations in 1998. In 2012, the airport was about $3.8 million in the red.

Public Building Commissioner Rick Effinger said he believed Cantwell's incentive was deserved.

"He does a great job, day in, day out," Effinger said. "We need somebody fighting to get something going at the airport. He deserves it. I'm sure if Tim wanted to go find a job somewhere else he could easily. He is very competent and we are lucky to have him. We really are."

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

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