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January 28, 2014

Housman resigns from airport board

Letter delivered to Whitley County Judge Executive

CORBIN — By John L. Ross / Staff Writer

“I B Done wit DIS. (sic)”

Those exact words were written below a large “smiley face,” all drawn with black paint and a paintbrush.

That black-paintbrushed sentence was written over an Aug. 21, 2013, letter from Whitley County Judge Executive Pat White Jr., to the Williamsburg-Whitley County Airport’s Board of Directors.

In the letter, White explains that Butch Housman was appointed to the airport board to replace “the unexpired term of Mr. Lee Bryant.”

That letter, with its painted-on addition, was in an envelope for White. It was delivered to White’s office by Housman, along with a book on the airport’s leasing rates dated Sept. 18, 2007, two different instruction manuals for airport equipment, and other airport-related paperwork, some of which was dated Feb. 5, 2008. It was all stacked inside a gallon-sized freezer bag with White’s name paintbrushed in black on the outside.

According to Airport Board Chairman Tim Mays, the note was Housman’s resignation as vice-chairman and member of the Williamsburg-Whitley County Airport Board — and White accepted that as a resignation as well.

Also included in Housman’s “resignation packet” were two different lists — a list of “parting shots,” and a list of “overall recommendations.”

The first one on Housman’s list of “parting shots” is to fire a current part-time airport employee.

“He (the employee) is a saboteur and has been a long term problem for the airport,” the document states.

The second on this list is for the board to immediately adopt the “Minimum Standards Rules and Regulations,” written in 2008.

“It can be modified if necessary over time,” it states.

The third “shot” is for the board to “specifically ban shooting on airport property and the storage of firearms, explosives and alcohol in hangers (sic).”

The fourth is for the airport to fix the gate.

The fifth is to “immediately come into compliance with the ‘recommendations’ (demands) made by Chastity Clark last September.” Those included no parking on the ramp and to cement the gravel between the hangar and the ramp to prevent loose stones from being scattered on the ramp.

The final “shot” on Housman’s list states, “Airport records go back to 2002 and there should be a complete audit from day one including all land transactions.”

During a meeting in December, the discussion of an audit was brought up, with some board members interested in auditing the last two years of the board’s finances. Housman then said the board should look at the numbers back to the beginning.

A vote was made to go ahead with a two-year audit, and the board members were unanimous with this decision.

The other list in Housman’s packet was his thoughts on his overall recommendations for the board to review.

He first feels the airport should sell the land and pay the debts. The second recommendation he states is to hire a “quality professional manager.” In the Dec. 12 meeting of the board, Housman’s resignation letter as the airport’s interim manager was shared and accepted by board members.

The third recommendation Housman had was to reform the “airboard,” “Reduce its numbers to five with no ‘insiders’,” his recommendation states.

He also recommends they allow the airport board and the manager to do their jobs “free of outside manipulation.”

His final recommendation is for the city and the county to withdraw their funding. He adds with good management and no “outside manipulation,” the airport can make it on its own.

Mays said Monday that a possible second resignation by Board member Marc Hensley had been tossed around, but that it is unclear what Hensley will finally decide to do.

Mays added he had spoken with Hensley, who he feels is “a productive member of the board.”

The plan was to have the airport board meet last week for a special-called session to elect board officials, but the weather cancelled that meeting, Mays said.

The next meeting of the board is slated for Feb. 6 — and Mays feels that meeting should be productive.

The plan is to elect officers during that meeting, and to begin looking at the airport’s current rule book to see what changes should be made. When the rule book was originally approved, Mays said the manager at the time had experience working in larger airports, and that while the rule book he provided was appropriate for a larger facility, the Williamsburg-Whitley County Airport needed something more streamlined.

“We’re looking through it and will come up with what should go and what we should keep,” Mays said. Once those new rules are established and approved by the board, tenants will have access to it through email or hard copy, he added.

“This is going to be a long-term process,” Mays added.

Also at the February regular meeting, Don Stricklin, the board’s current bookkeeper, will discuss his newest analysis of the airport’s monies — and Mays said it should be good news for the board.

“He’s reworked the numbers and the finances, and just in fuel sales alone things have gotten better,” Mays said.

During the December meeting, Stricklin passed out account registers for what appeared to be two separate board accounts.

He explained then the airport was operating on a $2,300 monthly deficit. He added that he was going from computer records dated July 2012 — and that’s all he had.

Now, Mays said Stricklin reported the airport is seeing a profit at the end of the month — and that it will likely continue to improve.

“The biggest goal for us now to really get over the hump is to get our debt financed with a decent interest rate,” Mays said.

He hopes for assistance with the city, county, or both.

“If the (airport’s) board and employees walk away, the city and the county would be obligated to pay our debt,” Mays said. “Or if we got to the point where there was no way to pay — the city and county would be obligated.”

He added if the city and/or the county opt to co-sign a consolidation loan for the airport’s bills, they could potentially see an interest rate of two or three percent, versus the current 7-8 percent paid currently.

Also on the potential agenda for the next meeting is getting an airport manager hired. Discussion has already been had at the committee level, Mays said, and it included a discussion of Mays himself being hired on as the airport manager. If the board entertained that idea, Mays would have to resign from his position as the airport board chairman, he said. No decisions have yet to be made about a manager, although there have been reviews of resumes, Mays added.

Concerning Housman’s assumed resignation, Mays was not upset.

“He’s made the statement that he’s been the focus on everything that’s wrong at the airport — and that ‘they need to get rid of me,’” Mays said.

It was unknown at press time who the county planned to appoint to the board to replace Housman.

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