Airport asks county for financial help

PARKERSBURG – Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Manager Terry Moore asked Wood County commissioners to help with an outstanding debt.

Commissioner Blair Couch recused himself, leaving the room while the matter was discussed. He cited an earlier ethics commission opinion regarding business interest relating to car rental at the airport and discussion of financial matters relating to the airport. “There shouldn’t be a problem, but I was advised, out of an abundance of caution, to not be involved in such discussions,” Couch said.

Moore told commissioners the airport has a line of credit account at BB&T that was set up before he became airport manager. He said the airport has been notified the account is being called in, with closing set for today.

“Because the airport was short on funds for awhile, they were paying interest only on the line of credit. It’s for five years, renewable annually. The original amount was $200,000; it’s now $185,000. Last year we were able to start paying more back. We’ve now paid $15,000. In the meantime, without notification to us, apparently the bank moved that division of their operations to Florida so our financials didn’t get there and it appears they are trying to close these accounts out,” Moore said. He said the airport would have to pay closing costs and would be looking at a higher interest rate and higher monthly payments to continue with BB&T.

He said one option is to get a lower interest loan to pay off the debt. Moore said he’s been in contact with a local bank about that possibility. “But it would take several days to work out the transaction. In the meantime, the note is coming due,” he said. Moore noted the loan is uncollateralized because airport property is not salable.

County officials discussed the possibility of the county acting as co-signer on a new loan to pay off the debt.

“We have helped the airport in the past,” said commission President Wayne Dunn. County officials said the county paid off two hangars at the airport. “We always stand arm in arm with the airport,” Dunn said.

The commission president also suggested the possibility of taking some of the county’s funds currently in savings, which he noted are earning one percent or less in interest, and providing a short-term loan for the airport to pay off the line of credit until airport officials were able to secure a lower interest loan to repay the county.

“That would give you more time to check around for the lowest interest rates and save you the closing costs and first month payment at the new higher interest rate,” Dunn said. “We would have the airport sign to repay the loan as soon as possible, once you have been able to obtain a bank loan.”

Dunn is the commission liaison to the airport authority board.

“We should be able to get bank board approval in a few days,” Moore said.

“I’d like to do a quick transfer of funds to pay it off, and the airport could pay it back as soon as possible, within a month or less, and it would save you the $1,300,” Dunn said.

Prosecutor Jason Wharton advised against co-signing a loan.

“It’s a very dangerous precedent you would be setting,” he said.

“But we’ve paid off notes for the airport before,” Dunn said.

“You have my advice. It’s the commission’s decision,” Wharton said.

Wharton asked why the matter had not been addressed earlier.

Moore said they were only notified in the past few days and Monday was the first available commission meeting he could get on the agenda.

“The finances were delivered to their local office. No one told us they had moved that function to Florida. It would have been closed out sooner if I hadn’t gotten a local bank official to intervene on our behalf,” Moore said.

The interest rate was 4 percent. It will become 6.5 percent and the payment will go from around $700-$800 to $1,800 monthly, Moore said.

“The commission donates to a lot of local organizations. My biggest concern would be for the county to become a co-signor on a loan,” Wharton told the commissioners. “You would be putting the county at financial risk by doing that. Providing the funds is less of an issue than co-signing a long-term loan. If they (the airport) couldn’t make the payment for some reason, the county becomes liable,” Wharton said.

Deputy Clerk Mark Rhodes reminded the commissioners they cannot make long-term financial commitments. By code, the commission cannot obligate future commissions. Long-term financial projects are handled through the building commission.

The commissioners voted to table the matter. “Go ahead and have BB&T extend the note and that will give everyone more time to look at and consider all the options,” Dunn said.