Tower Talk — Time to turn to user fees, CID for help
March 14, 2013 12:00 AM | 2332 views | 9 9 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The air-traffic control tower at Cobb County Airport at McCollum Field in Kennesaw is expected to be shut down as of April 7, the latest victim of President Obama’s ham-handed sequester ploy.

“I view this as taking a traffic light down out here at the corner of the four lane highway,” airport advisory board member Larry Thompson told the MDJ. “Sooner or later, somebody is going to hit down there. I view this the same way. It’s just a matter of time before somebody does.”

Obama’s budget gamesmanship is putting public safety at risk. His hope, obviously, is that by shutting down more than half of the country’s airports that the public will have a hissy fit and pressure Congress to cave in to his demands.

The loss of federal funding for air traffic controllers in the Cobb tower leaves the county with several choices.

One is to cross our fingers and hope for a quick, happy ending to the sequester and restoration of funding. But that could be a mighty long wait.

The second is to do nothing and leave it up to the pilots to sort out whose turn it is to take off and land and who has the right-of-way in the overhead approaches. That would be the most cost-effective solution, but would come at the price of seriously endangering pilots, passengers and those of us on the ground.

The third option is for traffic-control functions at the tower to be paid for with local funding, either public, or preferably, private.

There’s no question the airport serves a vital function for Cobb in terms of economic development. It has a $112.4 million impact on the local economy and supports, directly or indirectly, 842 jobs. But both Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee and east Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott say it’s unlikely the county would subsidize operations at the tower.

“What you’re doing if you ask the county is you’re asking the 700,000 or however many people in the county that don’t fly airplanes to subsidize operations at the airport,” Ott said.

But there are other options. The advisory committee has set up a pair of committees. One will look at changing to a no-tower operation that manages to provide pilots with the info they need in other ways. The other will look at longer-term solutions, such as reducing hours and asking for the Town Center Community Improvement District for a subsidy. While they’re at it, they could consider making the same request of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce.

Another possibility is increased user fees for those who take off and land and do business at the airport. McCollum was getting $700,000 from the feds that has to be made up. As a letter-writer in Wednesday’s MDJ noted, that figure could be made up simply by charging each of the 60,000 or so who land there each year a $12 fee for doing so.

User fees and contributions from the Town Center CID would certainly be a more equitable approach than expecting county taxpayers — the great majority of who have never flown in or out of McCollum and likely never will, and who experience little impact from the facility — to pick up the cost.

Comments
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Just Stop
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March 17, 2013
Government can be cut by the boatload. Republicans cower down to Democrats so they can get reelected. This is an example of one of them. As Barb sings, "will go on." I am tired of Democrats starting with Obama on down. Teachers get more than they deserve and get a quarter of the year off yet still complain. Everyone that has a hand out for government is gimme, gimme, gimme.
Mooney man
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March 16, 2013
McCollum is not the only airport loosing funding for their tower. Why not contact the folks at Fulton county and Gwinnett county about their plans and ideas. This is a prim example of why not to depend on the Federal government. If you can't afford it don't do it.
Just Sayin'....
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March 15, 2013
Obviously Commissioner Ott is pandering to some anti-business, anti-growth element. I doubt he has ever looked at the economic impact that the airport provides to the county. There are many ways to fund the tower, if needed, at McCollum, but his off-handed comments regarding the airport should be addressed.
Getagrip2
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March 15, 2013
There are lots of people who don't use county parks, auditoriums, pools, etc., too, but still have to " subsidize" them. At least the airport has a business purpose.
GA Pilot
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March 14, 2013
We don't need the tower.
Shameful
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March 14, 2013
You get what you pay for. If you want your taxes lower than expect cuts, don't try to shift the blame, it's shameful.
Aviation
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March 14, 2013
First off - the sequester was a Congressional and Presidential consequence they put together should a "grand bargain" not be reached. The extreme polarization of the political landscape is what made this a mess. Not Obama alone.

Secondly, I work in aviation and can ease your fears that the sky is not falling. Planes, especially the size of the planes at McCollum field, land without an air traffic control towers all the time. It happens so often that there is a good chance you have been on a plane that has landed without a control tower.

Just Sayin'....
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March 14, 2013
Mr. Ott - Your comments were obviously not well thought out, nor aimed at the people whose businesses are either based at the airport or depend on the airport. With all due respect, do you realize that the majority of the flights in and out of the airfield are not recreational, but business oriented? Do you not realize that the proximity of an airport such as this is a large part of what attracts business to the area? Are you not aware of the economic impact that McCollum has on the surrounding area and the county as a whole?

In the past I have given you the benefit of the doubt, but this time I think you are just spouting off to appeal to the far right. Unfortunately you gave no thought to your comments before you offered up this quote. For the record, I am not associated with, nor do I use McCollum, but I know many people who do, and many of them are in your district....and are quite possibly registered voters.
VFP42
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March 14, 2013
Republicans seem to fall for every single trap Obama sets, so I would estimate they're falling for another one right now but they're not smart enough to see what it is. They'll find out!

Maybe they'll quit squabbling over who the "true" Republicans are soon enough and FIGURE it out before the trap is sprung? Ha~
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