Airport request divides county board

By Andy Winemiller -

DOBSON — The airport’s request for a surplus car sharply divided county commissioners Tuesday evening.

After denying the Mount Airy-Surry County Airport Authority’s request for a surplus county vehicle in September, the Surry County Board of Commissioners reconsidered the matter at its meeting Tuesday evening, eventually voting 3-2 to hand over a used county vehicle for use at the airport.

“It needs to be hauled off to the junk pile,” said Commissioner Larry Johnson of the “courtesy car” being used at the airport.

According to correspondence from airport authority chair John Springthorpe, the car is used by visiting pilots to go to town to eat or to visit a tourist attraction. The car being used is more than 10 years old.

Commissioner Van Tucker indicated other airports have a rental car available for use, rented from a company such as Enterprise. The visiting pilots pay to use the car. However, there is not a local company willing to provide such a service in Surry County.

Johnson, who indicated he had been engaged in conversation with airport officials, made a motion for the item’s approval.

“We should let them have their hand-picked surplus vehicle,” remarked Johnson.

After silence fell for an unusually long period of time, board chair Eddie Harris provided a second to Johnson’s motion.

“We have vehicles, but maybe this isn’t the right time and place,” said Tucker. “Who uses the car? Who is liable? These are questions we asked which have never been answered.”

Tucker went on to indicate there were other issues regarding the airport and the courtesy car “could be addressed along with those other issues.”

Harris asked county Attorney Ed Woltz which entity — the county or the airport — would be liable should somebody using the car get into a traffic accident.

Woltz indicated once the vehicle was transferred to the authority that entity would be solely liable.

Johnson added the airport authority maintains insurance for the courtesy car being used at the airport, which was also a surplus county vehicle before it was signed over to the airport.

Tucker and Commissioner Buck Golding opposed the transfer of the vehicle.

Commissioners also opted to fill multiple vacancies on boards and commissions with one notable exception.

As a final item in open session, commissioners opted to address re-appointments to various boards and commissions. Fourteen members of various boards whose terms were expired were listed on a page included in the agenda packets of commissioners.

After Commissioner Buck Golding made motions for the appointments of two, Johnson opted to take a more expedient route.

“I’ll make a motion we approve all of these, except this one,” said Johnson, pointing at the paper.

Harris read the names of those being reappointed as part of Johnson’s motion.

The motion, which was approved unanimously, reappointed all members listed, with the exception of airport authority members Thomas Taylor and Victor Zamora.

County commissioners directed County Manager Chris Knopf to begin renegotiating the inter-local agreement with the city of Mount Airy which sets up the airport authority’s structure in November. The move came after “a lengthy review” by the county’s Finance Committee.

By Andy Winemiller

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

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