As in many businesses, partners may have disagreements, but they can still work together for the betterment of all.
An issue before Thursday’s meeting of the Lakeland Airport Commission might be an example of just that.
At the meeting, Woodruff Town Chairman Mike Timmons questioned the commission about how much each of the four town joint owners should pay as their share in 2013.
“I’ve got nothing against the town of Minocqua, but we [the towns] were told the amount the towns were going to be paying to the airport was going to be frozen, but we see shares for Woodruff, Lac du Flambeau and Arbor Vitae are up while the amount to be paid by Minocqua is down,” Timmons said. “Why does our annual contribution go up when it’s supposed to have been frozen?”
Commission members told Timmons the total amount the towns pay for 2013 would be frozen, as it has been the last three years, but the percentage each of the towns pay out of that amount is dictated by terms of the agreement the four towns made long ago over how the airport’s funding is decided and divided.
“According to that agreement, the towns are required to contribute a prorata share based on the latest equalized property values,” airport manager Jon Schmitz said. “The problem is some towns’ equalized value fell by a higher percentage or amount and others, like the town of Minocqua, fell by less.”
Timmons was told that any change in the funding arrangement must be agreed to by a majority of the towns that share in the airport’s ownership and operation costs.
“The commission can’t do anything about this,” commissioner Chuck Dowrick said. “It has to be done at the meeting of the four towns who share in the airport’s operations.”
Timmons said he would like to see the airport contributions from Woodruff, Arbor Vitae and Lac du Flambeau frozen for 2013 at the 2012 levels, but still have Minocqua pay its share projected for 2013 of $45,759. That amount would still be lower than what Minocqua paid in 2012 – $47,064.
Schmitz said he would be agreeable to that, but the airport would have to find a way to replace the $1,305 less in revenue the airport would receive for 2013 if they stuck with Timmons’ proposal.
“That $1,305 doesn’t sound like much, but to us here at the airport that is quite a bit,” Schmitz said. “And where would we get it?”
The following are the amounts each of the towns contributed in 2012 to the airport with the 2013 project contributions:
• Arbor Vitae – 2013: $16,975; 2012: $16,653.
• Lac du Flambeau – 2013: $28,803; 2012: $28,785.
• Woodruff – 2013: $10,744; 2012: $9,869.
• Minocqua – 2013: $445,759; 2012: $47,064.
Minocqua Town Chairman Mark Hartzheim said Timmons telephoned him Friday morning to discuss the funding issue.
Hartzheim said Timmons hit him “with the issue right out of the blue” and had no previous knowledge of Timmons’ dissatisfaction over the issue.
“At first when I talked to him I said I didn’t think I had an issue with what he was proposing as long as the commission did not have to cut the airport’s budget further and Minocqua’s contribution was also frozen,” Hartzheim said.
“But later on after I thought about it some more I don’t even think we can legally do such a thing because according to the operation agreement between the towns for the airport the formula is already set as to how the division of the funds are to be decided.”
Hartzheim also questioned the fairness and the legality of freezing the amounts for three towns, but then increasing the amount for a fourth town.
“We have an agreement on funding and I don’t think legally we can manipulate it artificially,” Hartzheim said. “The question is whether it’s legal to do. I would think there’s been past years where other towns have benefitted and we have not, so it all evens out somehow.”
A joint meeting of the four towns that operate the airport is scheduled to be held Wednesday, Oct. 24, 6 p.m., at the Lac du Flambeau town office. At that meeting Timmons’ proposal could be discussed and acted upon as part of the 2013 budget process listed on the meeting’s agenda for discussion and action.
Joe VanDeLaarschot may be reached at email@example.com.