Feb. 22, 2019 – Some Excelsior area pilots spoke to the Excelsior Springs City Council Tuesday evening, asking the city to make changes to what they described as the mismanagement of the Excelsior Springs Memorial Airport.
In Friday’s city council’s work session, City Manager Molly McGovern said she wanted to provide answers to the pilots’ questions regarding recent decisions made by the city. She said any of the pilots who wished to submit a proposal for a business venture to use airport facilities may do so at any time. She said she doesn’t want to talk about who did what in the past, but wants to move forward.
“I really don’t need to argue over who didn’t or did fail to help each other in the past,” she said. “Let’s just look forward and state if it was unclear before, it can be clear now that we would like to see you prepare that proposal, we’re not preparing that proposal. So that will clear that up as to who’s going to do it.”
The pilots can form their own board at any time, McGovern said. The city does not wish to re-establish the
airport board because it would require city officials to monitor the board to ensure meetings conform to Missouri Law.
According to Missouri Law, any time at least the minimum members of a city board needed to make a meeting valid meets in one location where business may be discussed, a public notice must be published. In addition, all meeting minutes must be prepared and posted on the city’s website.
“All public governmental bodies shall give notice of the time, date, and place of each meeting, and its tentative agenda, in a manner reasonably calculated to advise the public of the matters to be considered,” Missouri Sunshine Law states in part.
McGovern said the pilots can form any organization they wish to form, but it does not have to be a city board. A non-government board will not have the meeting regulations the city would have to enforce.
Thomas Creel, a pilot who houses his plane at the airport said he met with a group of pilots protesting the city’s handling of the site to respond to McGovern’s statements. He said the pilots want a Missouri Government airport board. In addition, they want a City Council willing to listen to the board.
“The Airport Board can make all the recommendations they want to improve the airport, but if the City Council will not listen to them, it will not be effective,” he said.
McGovern said ideally, board members do not make decisions as to how to improve the airport in a typical board meeting. She said, a well thought out plan should be developed by that board, a plan that will describe what services the airport will offer, very similar to a business plan. She said the plan would also include needed resources, how the service fits into the marketplace and confirmation that the plan can be successful.
Presentation of the plan for adoption by the city council would then support the responsible entity to carry out the approved proposal, she said. This eliminates the need to ask the city council daily or monthly to gap-fill the needs that might be presented from month-to-month and would be subject to change depending upon who attended the meeting that month. The plan, she said, would also clarify the party responsible to carry out the plan, thus avoiding the finger pointing as to who failed to permit the airport to achieve its potential.
McGovern said as far as the fuel system, the previous Airport Board presented it as a money-making opportunity. She said the city paid $47,582 in capital improvement dollars to install. It made the city an approximate $22,000 profits in fuel sales over six years and cost the city $24,000 in repairs.
She said the pilots can present a proposal on how they wish to invest in a new fuel system. She said she cannot justify spending funds on making a new adjustment based on the pilot’s thoughts that it will work better than previously.
Whether the airport sells fuel in the future needs to be taken into consideration as part of the overall operation, not an isolated decision, she said.
Creel said he went through the last 10 years of the airport’s income and expense reports and found an $18,867 repair expense incurred in 2011 as the largest.
He said the existing fuel system worked fine and only needs the credit card reader replaced. He said the last card reader cost the city $14,400. Fellow pilot Ron Holmes flew to multiple airports to check on their fuel systems to determine which one would work for Excelsior, he said.
Creel said the fuel system will attract new pilots to the area once word got out the system worked.
Creel said the door to the north hangar needs to be replaced. He said the airport needs the hangar to remain operational to be self-supportive. Although McGovern knew two additional pilots wished to move their planes to Excelsior, he said, she destroyed the door to make room for the Parks and Recreation department. He said the pilots view this as a move to intentionally run the airport into the ground.
“The pilots will still be willing to come up here if the door is replaced,” he said. That hangar is 50 percent of the inside hangars the airport has.”
He said the parks and recreation department’s budget contains tax revenue, the airport does not. Parks and recreation budgeted $100,000 to a new building, he said, let them build their own building.
McGovern said the hangar will be taken over by the parks and recreation department.
Creel said the airport needs an annual budget set up for it. The farm ground associated with the airport can be rented out to local farmers to bring in extra income to the airport.
McGovern said a local farmer approached the city about farming airport land. She said the city will put it out to bid soon and any income made will be included in the airport budget still in existence. The budget can be found published with the rest of the city’s budgets on its website. McGovern said additional changes will not be made to the budget at this time.
“We’re not budgeting right now,” she said. “We’ll be addressing budgets when we address budgets. We don’t have a reason today to amend the budget, there’s been no information presented to us as to what income might be considered that might finance anything they might propose.”
McGovern said a plan that presents a complete evaluation of the business to be provided needs to be completed. It should include revenue and expenses, threats and opportunities and the service delivery model to be used. She said plenty of emotion has been presented, but with little supporting information on how this can be made to work successfully.
During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Holmes addressed the council regarding a letter read by Mayor Brad Eales during the previous meeting. In the letter, Eales said the city could not continue to spend tax dollars on hobbies.
Holmes said many people play golf as a hobby. He said according to financial statements published by the city, Excelsior spent over $3.5 million of the tax payer’s money on the golf course in 2016-17. He said golfers played 36,285 rounds of golf during that time, costing the taxpayers $8.92 per round, or $13,485.17 per month.
He said according to the same report, the negative cash flow for 2016 equaled $124,111 and $189,533 in 2017.
Holmes said the city paid $75,000 for the dog park property and he was told another $34,000 on the park since.
McGovern said in a previous statement, the city could not transfer parks and recreation funds to any other city department according to state law.
Richard Sheets, deputy director of Missouri Municipal League, said state law prohibits the transfer of parks and recreation funds raised by the designated property tax.