Dear Rep. Matthew Hill: Reconsider your bill

Hank Hayes • Updated Feb 23, 2018 at 12:04 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Tri-Cities chambers of commerce and the Tri-Cities Airport Authority have sent letters to state Rep. Matthew Hill asking him to reconsider his legislation that would create a state lawmaker executive board overseeing the airport.

“As the airport developed from local grassroots efforts, we believe that maintaining local control is more important today than it ever was,” said the letter from the chambers.

Said Airport Authority Chairman Jon Smith: “We did not really support (Hill’s bill) and we asked (lawmakers) to consider not supporting it as well. … We just don’t see any reason for another layer of bureaucracy. … We have seriously committed that all our processes are clear and people can see what we’re doing. Our accounting policies are above reproach. … A lot of work has gone into guiding this process.”

Hill, said Smith, hasn’t responded to the letter.

Hill filed the bill, which would also prohibit the Airport Authority from hiring a lobbyist, as the airport has been finalizing a financing package for Aerospace Park. Hill has not moved the bill. He wasn’t available for comment on the letters.

What is Aerospace Park?

Aerospace Park is the airport’s effort to create aviation-related economic development. Airport officials believe the site could attract up to 2,000 jobs.

The site has about 20 state-certified acres with an additional 140 acres to be graded.

How will the airport pay for the site preparation?

Airport Authority commissioners on Thursday approved a resolution to issue $8.5 million in bonds for the project, in addition to accepting a $4.1 million grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s (TDOT) Aeronautical Economic Development Fund.

The airport, said Executive Director Patrick Wilson, is about $4 million short of its $17 million goal to pay for the site development.

“We’re going to apply for any other grant we can get our hands on relating to Aerospace Park,” Wilson promised commissioners. “The $4.1 million TDOT grant, we got a lot of work from our Northeast Tennessee (state government) delegation on that. … A lot of thank-yous go into that $4.1 million.”

What’s the timeline for Aerospace Park?

Grading work is expected to begin this fall. The airport expects to sell those bonds in March.

For more, go to www.capitol.tn.gov. The bill’s number is HB 2602.

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