Editorials

Flighty: County Board members get a say on $600,000, but not on $6.5 million

U.S. Air Force and Army personnel conducted an exercise at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in August 2013 to simulate the military response to an earthquake in the area. For 25 years the airport’s operations and use have been shared by the military and civilian aviation.
U.S. Air Force and Army personnel conducted an exercise at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in August 2013 to simulate the military response to an earthquake in the area. For 25 years the airport’s operations and use have been shared by the military and civilian aviation. dholtmann@bnd.com

It’s nice to share, and for 25 years St. Clair County and the U.S. Air Force have shared MidAmerica St. Louis Airport. They have agreed to share responsibilities, facilities, equipment and space in ways that ultimately should save taxpayers by eliminating duplicate costs.

The control tower is manned by the military. The county provides the long, heavy-duty runway that air refueling tankers need. The military clears the snow from the 10,000-foot county runway. The county de-ices the military aircraft.

The relationship is outlined in a joint-use agreement, which was intended to last 50 years. It didn’t. Much has changed.

The old agreement did not anticipate military base realignment moving the Air National Guard’s 126th Air Refueling Wing from Chicago to Scott Air Force Base. The big tankers and their massive payloads were requiring the military to pay the county $600,000 since 2011.

So the new agreement means the military and county will figure out a better way to share. An agreement that creates an expense for the military is not exactly sharing, so some duties will be shifted to better balance the relationship.

St. Clair County Board members approved the new joint-use agreement on Monday. Funny, the same body denied a say about the $6.5 million county subsidy that kept MidAmerica in business during 2015 must approve the essential relationship on which the airport was built and which will determine significant costs into the future.

Protecting the assets that make Scott Air Force Base an attractive military headquarters and supplement its mission is apparently one thing. Letting a bunch of appointees answerable only to St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern spend our taxes without board approval is another.

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