And the control tower is essential, airport advisory board member Larry Thompson said at a Monday board meeting.
He makes a strong case, pointing out that corporations using McCollum may well turn to DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, which escaped the sequestration cut.
At least three corporations moved their headquarters to Cobb because of the advantages of the airport, he said, warning that closing the tower means Cobb “will lose the Fortune 100 companies that come in here.”
Considering the Obama administration’s class warfare against corporate jet owners, Thompson sees the funds cutoff as permanent. In any event, the airport advisory board is moving to take on the tower operation which has been receiving about $700,000 a year for six full-time and one part-time employee providing air traffic control.
Board member Butch Thompson figures the board could run the control tower operation for 30 percent less than what it has been costing. On that point, Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott worried that the feds might cut off all future funding if the county starts paying the cost of the tower. That would be fine, retorted Butch Thompson. Get off the federal dole? What a novel idea!
Ott made a good point in cautioning the board not to expect help from the county government. That, he said, would be “asking the 700,000 or however many people in the county that don’t fly airplanes to subsidize operations at the airport.”
He said the users of the airport should pay the costs — even though it could be considered an economic engine for Cobb, as Larry Thompson said. Another novel idea!
Anyway, looking ahead, the airport advisory board formed two committees to come up with answers to the question: How does McCollum deal with its sudden new funding problem?
One of the committees will prepare a plan for changing to a no-tower operation that would make sure pilots have all the information and equipment needed. The other committee is to examine the long-term outlook such as reduced hours for staffing and calling on the Town Center CID for financial assistance — the latter of which seems to be a good start.
What about asking the Cobb Chamber of Commerce for some financial help? After all, one of the chamber’s main objectives is to bring new businesses to Cobb — and to keep existing ones.
As for the outlook for federal (taxpayer) funds in the future, Larry Thompson may be right.
Consider that the FAA is closing 189 of the nation’s 251 contractor-operated towers (like McCollum), described by U.S. Contractor Tower Assn.’s executive director as “a 75 percent cut” versus “a five percent haircut” for the rest of FAA’s budget.
It may well come down to users and backers of McCollum Airport paying for air traffic control on their own. It’s not a novel idea. It’s called American free enterprise.