Commissioners ask lawmakers to consider airport de-annexation

Commissioners ask lawmakers to consider airport de-annexation
April 21
00:00 2016
Rep. Donny Lambeth

Pre-school funding is also discussed



Forsyth County commissioners asked state law-makers to consider de-annexing the Smith Reynolds Airport out of the city during a meeting at the Forsyth County Government Center in order to avoid paying stormwater fees.

The airport was one of several issues that came up during the commissioners’ annual meeting with the legislators who represent Forsyth County. Both the City and County hold meetings to let state law-makers know their legislative needs. Attending legislators were state Reps. Evelyn Terry, Donny Lambeth and Julia Howard and State Senators Paul Lowe and Joyce Krawiec.

County Commissioner Ted Kaplan presented the lawmakers with a resolution to de-annex the airport, which would eliminate stormwater fees, which equal about 20 percent of its annual net income, and eliminate city taxes. He said the taxes and fees are making it less competitive than Piedmont International Airport which doesn’t pay city taxes because it’s outside of Greensboro’s city limits. Commissioners also asked for legislation to eliminate local governments and non-profits from paying stormwater fees.

County Commissioner Walter Marshall didn’t support either effort. He felt the issue should be settled locally and that stormwater fees should be paid, since larger cities are required to have a stormwater management program to prevent water contamination from stormwater that flows off surfaces like parking lots.

“If there’s a building there, someone has to pay it,” Marshall said at the Thursday, April 14. meeting.

Terry said her concern was for those who live around the airport. She said anything that is done must involve helping the “poverty-ridden” community around it.

“It’s a bastion of economic opportunity that sits in a desert of poverty,” she said.

The City and County have been working on a compromise on the issue for months. Right now, the City currently has a proposal drafted to give the airport up to $100,000 annually for 7 to 10 years, contingent that it remains in the city and that the County matches the funds. The money would be used to apply for grants from the N.C. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration for capital projects at the airport. There’s also a stormwater fee credit being considered in the City public works committee for businesses that install preventative structural stormwater measures.

Kaplan argued that the airport’s growth will help the area around it, as did County Commissioner Everette Witherspoon.

“It’s the largest economic opportunity on that side of Winston-Salem,” Kaplan said.

Marshall was cynical about that, since the area around the airport remains poor and it would take substantial outreach for those who live near the airport to get the training to work there.

Lambeth also said he hoped for a local solution.

“It would be better if you can work it out with the City but if you can’t, just come to us,” said Lambeth.

Though the airport was the longest and most heated discussion, other issues were talked about as well.

Witherspoon told law-makers he felt the county got the “short end of the stick” on pre-school subsidies. He said many parents can’t afford pre-school for their children and it’s affecting local schools.

“You talk about low performing schools, it doesn’t happen by osmosis; what you’re having is children coming to school not ready to learn,” he said.

Marshall agreed on the need for more local pre-school funding, which Lambeth, a chair of the appropriations committee, said he’d look into.

Marshall also told legislators he’d gotten “calls from all over the county” on HB 2, expressing concerns that North Carolina was regressing. The controversial law, passed last month in a special one-day session, has been called discriminatory by critics and resulted in protests and boycotts of the state. Marshall expressed concerns over the restrictions it puts on local governments on minimum wage and that it eliminated employees’ rights to sue for discrimination in state court.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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