Dreaming big isn’t lack of vision
“Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.” Napoleon Hill (1883-1970)
This is a quote that I found in a farming magazine several years ago and I’ve kept the cut out from that page in a place where I can see it from time to time to help me put things into perspective. I once used it in a speech to high school graduates, hoping they would pick up on it and carry it with them through life.
It tells me that nothing happens without that constant yearning to make it happen. We all have this within us, only manifested in different avenues. Some may have a desire to travel or to own a business or to raise a Godly family.
When looking at our leaders in the county and across the nation we should and do expect those in elected positions to have desires that will provide us a better place to make our own desires happen.
As one of three commissioners here in Lawrence County, I work hard to keep that responsibility in the forefront of my thoughts.
The commission has a very broad job description. We are charged with the task of creating a $14 million budget for ourselves and the other officeholders. We oversee the Lawrence County Dog Shelter, the Lawrence County EMS and the Union-Rome Sewer District.
We often act as a cheerleader in honoring deserving individuals and we also fight for the county’s interest when litigation arises. We work closely with our State and national leaders to make sure Lawrence County is fairly represented.
Of all our responsibilities, economic improvement has to be at the top of the list. A strong local economy helps our citizens find good jobs and helps support the county’s endeavors with sales tax revenue. The county’s sales tax income of $8.5 million makes up nearly 61 percent of our budget. With some reverse engineering that means $566,000,000 is spent on goods with a sales tax in Lawrence County, annually.
That being said, the county, in all reality, is still about $1 million short each year. A financial increase of that size would solve the issues we have with adequately policing, prosecuting, and incarcerating those who commit crimes.
To solve that big of a problem, we must think big and have a desire to make things happen.
One idea that has garnered much attention as of late, is the possible commercial development of the Lawrence County Airpark. For years, the county has been at odds with the heirs of the family that deeded the property to the county for use as an airport.
More recently, the commission has pushed for talks with that family to resolve issues of eminent domain, the reversion clause and possible development of that land.
At this point, the commission is not pushing for the closure of the airport without a possible relocation in mind.
Because of its location, the possibilities are limitless. The 78 acre parcel is within one mile of Interstate 64 and, if funding is approved for the remainder of the Chesapeake Bypass in August, the property will sit just outside the Tri-State Outerbelt.
To limit a possible development to a strip mall would be ludicrous. The impact this site could have for the entire Tri-State is monumental. It is the commissions’ job to think as big as possible.
If that were to happen, what would become of the airport?
Currently, our Airpark is limited, indefinitely, to a runway of 3,001 feet. This places it into the second lowest category of airport according to a study done on five southern Ohio parks in 2006. In the lowest category are airports on islands within Lake Erie. In comparison, Tri-State Airport is over 7000 feet. Coincidentally, Tri-State is only 9.9 miles or 13 minutes drive time from Chesapeake.
Despite the close proximity of Tri-State, the commission feels it is important for Lawrence County to have an airport. Having a flight school and escaping the congested nature of a larger airport are important benefits.
But what would be the potential growth if our county had a runway length of 7,000 feet? What if we were to find a suitable site without limitations? Would it not be better if the county were a free and clear owner of the property? If the development of the current site enabled the county to replace its obsolete jail and provide broader police service, would we not all have a safer place to live?
These are questions we pose to ourselves and to the residents of Lawrence County. As referenced above, the starting point of this achievement is the desire to make it happen.
Personally, I feel this is an opportunity worth looking at. Can it happen? Possibly. It could be years in the making. Are we thoughtful in our approach? Absolutely!
You should expect no less from your commissioners.
Bill Pratt is a Lawrence County Commissioner serving his first elected term.