Commission: Airport work mostly involves federal funds

By ED HOWELL, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 5/10/17

The Walker County Commission on Monday defended work that is performed at Walker County Airport-Bevill Field, saying that most of the funding for that work involves federal funds.

The commission agreed to amend a contract with Garver LLC …

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Commission: Airport work mostly involves federal funds


The Walker County Commission on Monday defended work that is performed at Walker County Airport-Bevill Field, saying that most of the funding for that work involves federal funds.

The commission agreed to amend a contract with Garver LLC concerning taxiway extension work at the airport, at the recommendation of County Engineer Mike Short.

“This is really a request by the (Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA) to reconfigure how our airplane traffic enters the taxiway,” Short said. “We have two connectors to the taxiway, one in the middle of the apron and one on the east side of the apron. This would still allow us to have only two connectors to the taxiway, but one would be on the east side of the apron and the other on the west side of the apron, and the one in the center would be taken out so that someone on the apron would not have direct access to the runway like they have now.” 

Short said it is a FAA grant project with 90 percent paid by federal funds and another 5 percent paid by the state. The county would wait until enough money built up to construct the project.

He said Tuesday that $700,000 is Garver’s estimated cost of the project.

District 3 Commissioner Ralph Williams said he had heard some negative comments in the community about local funds designated for airport work.

“They think we should put it on the roads,” he said. “I explained to them that money is earmarked (for the airport). We would go to jail if we used that money on the roads.”

Short agreed the funds in question can only be used for the airport, as they are generated from jet fuel taxes, distributed to the state, and then to the local areas.

District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis, who represents the airport and has been involved with a project about the airport in Leadership Walker County with Short, took up for the airport spending, noting in the commission’s efforts to pass a 1-cent sales tax this summer, many comments are being made. The Leadership project involves educating the public about how important the airport is to the county.

“It is an economic tool and driver for the businesses that are coming to this county,” Davis said. “It is crucial that airport is maintained to the level that it is.” The $50,000 budgeted for the airport “is a fraction” of what other counties spend on their airport. He said Shelby County is spending $600,000 a year, while Cullman County spends $300,000.

“I would put our airport up there with one of the best regional airports around,” he said.

Commissioners need to do a better job educating the public about what an asset the airport is, adding that it was instrumental in bringing firms such as Fontaine and Harbor Freight to the county. He said if a viable airport is not on the list for a county, a prospect will ignore the site.

“We need to reinforce to everybody that airport equals jobs in Walker County,” Davis said.

Taxpayers dollars are being spent as wisely and sparingly as the commission can, he said, and the county is getting 95 percent match on projects.

The Leadership team working on the airport project is expected to be at the May 22 commission meeting to present ideas in terms of signage and publicity for the airport, he said. He said a special day is expected to be held at the airport.

In other action Monday, the commission: 

•heard Sheriff Jim Underwood say that the dispatch communications system will be back up to full strength that week after a lightning strike damaged it several months ago. Insurance money and funds obtained by state Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, and Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, helped to complete the work, which gives the county backup communications, he said.

•heard from County Administrator Cheryl Ganey that the commission had received a $30,000 liability insurance discount for its safety programs, as well as a $48,000 longevity bonus for going into a three-year contract with the Association of County Commissions of Alabama for its self-insured liability fund. A $15,000 discount had already been received in the county’s worker’s compensation premiums.

•heard the next commission meeting will be May 22, as the commission meets on the second and fourth Monday of the month in May due to tax hearings using the commission’s chambers.

•heard Short report that the community garden program at the old airport is connected with a state program to train for potential CDL licensing for drivers. He said some new hires for the county may not have CDL licensing and may wish to go through the program, which has $300,000 available to the program. Short said District 4 has been particularly interested in getting CDL licensing, as county employees cannot be allowed to take county trucks out to take the tests. “This is a way we can that I think we can potentially manage that,” he said. District 4 Commissioner Stephen Aderholt said many people in between jobs also have trouble getting a truck to take a CDL test.

•agreed to adopt the annual state school sales tax holiday. A new state law has moved the event starting this year from August to July 21-23, to allow shoppers to purchase certain school supplies, computers, and clothing free of state sales or use tax. The move means no state or county sales tax will be charged on qualifying items within Walker County. According to the state Department of Revenue, Jasper, Sumiton, Carbon Hill, Cordova, Oakman, Parrish, Kansas and Eldridge are also signed up to participate as municipalities, which also eliminates the city sales tax in those cities.

•approved a change, as a fair that had been scheduled for the old airport in May has been changed to July 12-15, with the full lease running from July 9-17.

The fair is being sponsored by American Daredevil (Ultimate Fair) of Center Point, with rides, games and concessions provided by Mississippi Delta Shows, along with Midway Entertainment. This will be the eighth year for the event at the old airport.

Insurance is being provided by the applicant.