Airport Weather System ~
Private Airport ~ Public Money
How many cars do you have in your garage? Two, Three? How about a boat? Or is your boat too big for your garage? And how about air planes, how many of those do you have? How often do you use the Monroe County Airport?
Well $130,000 of your tax dollars are going to the airport for a weather system out there. I talked to W. Larry Hamilton, President of Tellico Air Services, Inc, and he said there are about 30 planes out there. The airport is located at 350 Airport Road. Its between Sweetwater and Madisonville on Old Highway 68.
He told me that the airport is mainly used by executives at the industrial park. And also to fly in parts for the industrial park. He said the county should be doing this because these execs provide 'jobs'.
I asked Hamilton to please give me the names of the owners of the planes, but he refused, saying that was private information. Not very. You can find the information here, all you need is the registration number which is painted onto the sides of the planes.
Because Hamilton refused to help me, I had to go out onto the tarmac and copy the numbers from the sides of the planes that were parked there at the time of my visit. Here they are along with the names of the owners as listed on the FAA website:
N34091 ~ J.J. Malloy ~ Colorado
N8777U ~ Tellico Air Services ~ Tellico Plains, TN
N293DF ~ Jeff Darragh ~ Naples, FL
N6879E ~ James Williams ~ Friendsville, TN
N6751E ~ Mike Love ~ Sweetwater, TN
N8672B ~ Harlan Richards ~ Illinois
N6816N ~ Allen Rinderknecht ~ Mineral Wells, Texas
N7805Y ~ Wesley Clark ~ Loudon, TN
County Commissoner, David Cleveland told me that his cousin owns four of the planes at the airport, but I didn't get the name of his cousin. Cleveland told me that giving tax money for the airport is the same as giving tax money for the county roads. He also said that it is the same as giving tax money for meals-on-wheels.
I told him I wouldn't compare it to meals on wheels and that everybody uses the roads. His reply was that I was welcome to use the airport anytime. I wanted to smack him.
I asked him if he was glad we have a newspaper like the Advocate in our county. He said he never thought about it one way or another. I told him that if I owned a newspaper he would think about it.
County Attorney, Sharon Lee, said that Cleveland is not breaking the law and that there is no conflict of interest.
Larry Hamilton, who runs Tellico Air Services, pays the county $1 per year, to have his business at the airport. He didn't appreciate my looking into this matter and asked me what I had against the airport. I told him I didn't have anything against the airport, but that if he wanted a weather system out there, he should invest his money and buy one.
This is not the end of this, check back later for more news about this and if you have comments about it use the message board or EMail me. Let me know if you want your comments published on this site.
Another web search and I hit paydirt! Here are all the planes owned by people in Monroe County.
According to the county commission, they give $5000 per year to meals on wheels, a program which provides people who qualify, one meal a day, at noon.
In order to qualify, a person must be over 60 and unable to prepare their own meals. 67 people in the county currently receive meals on wheels. (continued above)
And 6 people qualify for the options program, which provides in home services such as cleaning for people who are unable to cook or clean their homes.
the irony of it
Since we have a sales tax in Tennessee, the very poorest people in the state are paying for the airport weather system. The recipiants of meals on wheels are paying for it.
Logic of the well to do, or lack thereof|
Shane Burris who is Director, Industrial Development Monroe County, TN, told me that the weather system is very important for the airport to have for safty reasons. I agreed but suggested to him that it was wrong for the very poorest who pay taxes under a sales tax and are having to pay for it, to have to do that.
He told me that it is 'fair that everyone pay the same taxes' regardless of income. If you are poor, that's too bad. But you should still have to pay the same taxes as everyone else. He told me his family used to be coal miners and that they worked themselves up out of poverty and that is what everyone else should do. When I said that public money should go to poor people, he said "but you shouldn't be on the public dole". "Do you want to stay on the dole all your life" he asked. It seems that using shame to keep needy people from seeking help is a very popular and effective tactic used by the wealthy and the republican party, which may be the same thing. Except that shame is also used to get poor and working class people to reject 'the public dole'.
It doesn't affect the affluent though. I pointed out to him that getting people off the public dole was exactly what I am trying to do. Why should Tellico Air Services Inc that owns at least 2 planes and all the other people who can afford planes, be given public money??
Typical conservative mindset. What he was saying is this, if you are very poor and needy, for whatever reason, don't go on the public dole. Work yourself up out of poverty and when you have made a million or two, then go on the public dole.
I think that since Hamilton is getting public money, the public has a right to know how much money he is making every year. Especially since he pays only $1 to "run" the Monroe County Airport. If he were very poor and applying for food stamps, or any other kinds of "welfare" he would be required to disclose EVERYTHING about his personal financial situation. So why is he able to conceal this from the public? Its a lucky thing for him that I could not get this information.
County Executive Allan Watson
Allan Watson said that the airport receives Federal, state and county money for its maintenance and upkeep. It is helpful in bringing industry to the county, but the main problem is that its location should be in Vonore, near the industrial park. And because of gas lines at one end, and a hill at the other, it is not financially feasable to have a longer runway built that could accomodate small jets that most companies and executives fly in these days.
He also stated that Commissoner Cleveland used to be a pilot and that he is very interested in the airport. And that when he is no longer on the commission, the airport will fade from getting resources.
Which I translate to mean it will fall out of the public eye and be able to be on the public dole in peace. As far as the longer runway is concerned, my advice is not to worry, I'm sure somebody will think of asking the tax payers for the money. God forbid Larry Hamilton not have a longer runway and those jet people not be able to fly into and out of the great and famous Monroe County Airport.
Another thing that I found out long ago and never changes, is that people who serve in public life are always amazed when a citizen like me asks questions. Their attitude is, 'why don't you keep out of this, what's it to you what we do'. They are always shocked that an ordinary citizen would be brazen enough to actually question what they do. Cleveland's attitude was, well its tough if you don't like it, cause we're doing it anyway.
When I begin to ask the questions that they don't want the public talking about, I get a question such as, "and what business or organization do you represent". Well duh, I'm just your average annoying citizen, sorry I bothered you. By all means continue right on doing whatever you like, don't mind me.
This letter from County Executive Allan Watson's Office:
The automated weather system at the airport will receive funding from a grant from the State of Tennessee. Monroe County will receive $125,000.00 from the Sate and will need to contribute $31,250.00 for the match of the grant. Approximately 15 to 20 airplanes are based at the airport and most of them belong to local residents. Mr. Hamilton leases the airport from the county and has a charter and freight business there. The County Commission voted to spend the money on this project, however I personally think the money could have been used more wisely. Unfortunately, I do not have a vote on the Commission.
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