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City officials agree to surrender equal ownership of Lincoln County airport

Airplanes in a hangar at the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Regional Airport.

MATT CHAPMAN
Staff Writer

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners and Lincolnton City Council reached a resolution this week regarding the future of the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Regional Airport.

The city and county have been equal partners since the inception of the airport in 1986. However, with a unanimous vote during a special called budget meeting on Monday night, city officials have agreed, in principle, to surrender their 50-percent stake in the airport.

Last year, each entity contributed $60,000 to fund the operation of the airport. The resolution proposes an 87-13 split, which will vary as the percentage of total population fluctuates, meaning that the county would be responsible for approximately $104,000 worth of the operating costs compared to just $16,000 for the city.

The 87-13 split would also apply to any future tax revenue generated by the airport, which has never turned a profit during 30 years of operation, although the county will receive 100 percent of the revenue until all debts related to the airport have been paid off.

The city has also agreed to surrender its equal share of representation on the airport authority, which is a governing board with the administrative capacity to control, lease, maintain, construct, improve, operate and regulate the airport and landing field. Per the agreement, the county commissioners will appoint four of the five board members, however, one of the county appointees must reside within the Lincolnton city limits.

The county will also be purchasing the city’s interest in a 54-acre tract of land located at the airport for $225,000, according to the agreement. A $4 million grading project to prepare that site for future economic development, which hasn’t yet been approved by the commissioners, has been included in the county budget for 2018.

The resolution also includes a bill that will be proposed to Lincoln County state Rep. Jason Saine that would put the airport in the name of the airport authority rather than the city and county, as it currently stands. Limiting the ownership to one entity governed by members appointed by city and county officials will make it easier to take out loans for future projects at the airport, according to County Manager Kelly Atkins.

Atkins, along with Lincolnton City Manager Steve Zickefoose, will now meet with city attorney T.J. Wilson and county attorney Wesley Deaton to craft a contract based on the terms of the agreement that will need approval from the Lincolnton City Council and Lincoln County Board of Commissioners.

Image courtesy of Michelle T. Bernard

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