The Madison County Journal slammed the $1.2 million airport study in an editorial last week. The newspaper said it the airport will never be built and the true purpose was to generate fees for certain contractors. Read on.
On Monday, the ultra top secret $1.2 million airport study was unveiled and we wonder if it's just $1.2 million taxpayers are going to have to eat or will that figure be in the tens of millions.
Either way, the likelihood that an airport will be constructed in the county, as of now, is slim to none.
We still wonder if the plan would have even been unveiled if the Journal hadn't broken the story back in February - if $1.2 million would have been paid out for another plan to sit on a shelf and nobody the wiser.
Building an airport is a very expensive project, one with so many details and intricacies involved. Starting it with a top secret plan that costs 10 times what previous plans did should raise questions. But, the answers came with more questions.
For starters, MCEDA and County Engineer Rudy Warnock have said the reason for secrecy was to allow the process to continue without political and economic interference. Warnock said he was afraid of land grabs or interference from people trying to get the project put on a preferred site.
Well, they announced the top three sites so if someone wanted to try and flip some land they have plenty of time to make that happen. And, Warnock admitted during Monday's presentation that he was contacted by supervisors and MCEDA board members to look at various locations, which is why the initial search of 9 sites jumped to 17.
So much for accomplishing that goal we guess?
But the biggest issue was and continues to be the cost of the study.
In 2010, the LPA Group, a Michael Baker company, was commissioned by the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority to do a feasibility study with three possible sites, and other work. The cost - $295,860. That report, all 83 pages of it, was a lot more detailed than the slideshow presentation unveiled to the public on Monday.
It had low cost scenarios, high cost scenarios, broken down by line item. The level of detail is pretty impressive.
So, maybe that was just left out of Warnock's presentation Monday. Maybe there is another $1 million worth of detail that will be included with the detail presented. Or maybe the 77-page airport presentation had a per-slide preparation cost of $13,000?....
The question Madison County taxpayers need to be asking is what did they get with their money? According to Baker's Oak Ridge proposal, the $1.2 million could nearly have paid for an Instrument Landing System. MCEDA could have built an ILS system in the middle of a field somewhere and at least had something to show for it. Or for that matter, two T Hangars and some parking spaces.
Michael Baker, an international company that has decades of airport experience, put together a detailed, comprehensive study for an outfit in Tennessee for less than $300,000. County Engineer Rudy Warnock, who has zero experience building airports, produced a less-detailed report (at least as far as officials paying for it have been given) for four times the amount.
The FAA learned about Warnock's study in the Journal. In Knoxville, the FAA was in on the study from the start. Go figure. Rest of editorial.