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Republicans seek study of Elkhart airport operations

Republicans on Elkhart City Council think the city should consider leasing the airport operations to a private firm.


Posted on Sepa. 20, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Republicans on the city council on Wednesday urged the city to consider a study that would look at the benefits of leasing operations of the municipal airport.

Council members Mary Olson, Kyle Hannon and David Henke all suggested Mayor Dick Moore look into the matter in the next year and that failure to do so could jeopardize their support for the airport budget a year from now.

Olson said she’s working to prepare a packet for the administration to review and encouraged the administration to look into how other cities with airports that primarily cater to businesses operate their facilities. She said she believes shifting the duties to a private company could result in savings for the city.

Mayor Dick Moore said he would look at any ideas council may present. The council then granted tentative approval to the airport aviation budget after a few questions for airport manager Andy Jones.

Meanwhile, a sense of animosity continued to hang over much of the budget process.

Republican Brian Thomas, upset with the mayor’s opening remarks, protested by voting against all budgets that were reviewed Wednesday night.

Moore opened the meeting the same way he did Tuesday by telling the council that he and department heads would not debate over philosophical approaches or minor questions such as comparing month-to-month spending trends for specific budgets.

Unlike past years, department budget proposals were prepared chiefly by Moore, who incorporated $1.9 million in cuts for the 2013 budget after a trash fee that would have provided sufficient revenues was rejected by council several weeks ago.

Moore said he would still take questions, but added, “It is what it is and we feel that it’s set and we (don’t have) very much more to offer,” Moore said.

Thomas took exceptions to the tone of Moore’s comments.

“I don’t like being lectured to and told what to do,” Thomas said as he left after the meeting adjourned.

City controller Steve Malone seemed to object to questioning from Henke on his department’s budget. Henke asked why much of the money set aside for some office supplies remained unspent in the 2012 budget.

Malone sarcastically suggested if Henke wanted to eliminate funds for certain supplies, he’d be happy to not write any further checks or prepare invoices.

Henke expressed disappointment at the reply, but officials continued on with the review.

Councilman Rod Roberson, a Democrat, also attempted to clear the air about his use of travel expenses that are part of the 2012 council budget, an issue the came up Tuesday night in his absence.

Roberson arrived at Tuesday’s meeting after adjournment and learned a council member had questioned if he had used travel expenses for personal reasons.

For several years, Roberson has traveled to a leadership symposium in Florida with approval of the council president and has never been questioned about it in past years.

“It was properly requested and granted and there was no personal gain or gain by my primary employer. It is a valid expense and will withstand any auditory scrutiny,” he told the council.

In addition to the controller and airport budgets, council also granted tentative approval for information technology, human resources, human relations and the city’s grant writer.

The human relations budget was passed by a 5-3 vote with several council members suggesting the job could be combined in the future with the county as a way to better serve other communities.

The council will continue reviewing budgets tonight at 6 p.m. at council chambers and will meet three more nights next week.

Final adoption of the 2013 budget is expected to happen in October.



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