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County board decides to end airpark lease

Lawrence County Educational Service Center superintendent Harold Shafer told county commissioners Thursday that the center board voted unanimously July 26 to discontinue its lease because of continuing liability and legal difficulties.

Friday, August 06, 1999

Lawrence County Educational Service Center superintendent Harold Shafer told county commissioners Thursday that the center board voted unanimously July 26 to discontinue its lease because of continuing liability and legal difficulties.

"It was a tough decision that we battled for weeks," Shafer said, adding that state officials became critical of the plan.

"We were in a position where that was impeding progress," he said. "The legal restrictions and liability placed on a school board severely limits our ability to move forward with facilities and equipment necessary for the airport and the aviation school."

Commissioners have no immediate plans, but maintaining an operator and dealing with current airpark employees’ status is foremost on the county’s mind, commission president Bruce Trent said.

"I think we all still want to see it used as an airport as well as an educational facility," he said. "But there are bridges to cross."

If the county discontinues airport service, the land might revert back to the heirs of the original owner as set out in the original deed.

Shafer encouraged the county, or the airpark’s next operator, to continue pursuit of an aviation school.

The aviation career field is growing and it has tremendous potential for employing future Lawrence County students, he said.

"Once the Lawrence County commissioners determine the future for the airport, we will offer to share our ideas and progress to date for the aviation school, should our successor choose to continue the direction that we started," Shafer said.

The school system will remain as operator of the airport until official termination of its lease – Aug. 25.

Commissioners also reconsidered Thursday a senior citizens tax levy petition that would benefit the Lawrence County Council on Aging, but made no decision.

The LCCOA requested the county sponsor the levy to fund its services, and its board has a right to try it before voters in November if it wants to, commissioner Paul Herrell said.

No commissioner is against senior citizens, but there have been issues over the levy in the past, specifically about funding going through the county auditor’s office and whether or not the county is responsible for employment benefits, Trent said.

"It needs clearly stated that any expense related to employment of individuals would have to come out of the levy money," he said.

Commissioner George Patterson said he will not vote to sponsor the levy unless its wording is changed.

"I think we put it before the voters of this county three different times and I think they spoke loud and clear (by voting them down)," Patterson said.

Patterson said he might approve if a senior citizens tax levy was written that did not benefit any one agency.

The commission will seek an opinion from the county prosecutor on the submitted levy petition, asking about future employment liabilities if it should pass, Trent said.

The county or any agency seeking the levy has until Aug. 19 to sponsor and submit it to the Lawrence County Board of Elections.

Also Thursday, commissioners:

– Increased by 5 percent the salaries of Lawrence County Emergency Services employees, which includes those of the emergency management agency and 911 center.

– Increased Lawrence County Child Support Enforcement executive director Susan Brown’s salary by five percent.

– Granted permission to CSEA employees to accrue overtime for switching case files from an old computer system to a new state tracking system. The agency has a November deadline to get the work done. And, all overtime will be monitored weekly, commissioners said.

– Requested county clerk of courts Dale Burcham transfer $100,000 from his office’s contingency fund to serve as matching money for a county fairgrounds improvements grant.

The county expects that a promise of a dollar-for-dollar match might reap as much as $100,000 more to build a new 4-H food booth and make other fairgrounds repairs, commissioners said.