Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

January 28, 2013

Airport discussions generate follow-ups

By Jim Young
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — The Crossville Memorial Airport has been discussed frequently during recent city council meetings, and it was a major campaign issue during last year's city council elections, but at least one man thinks the airport and its value to the community should be portrayed in a better light.

Crossville City Clerk Sally Oglesby also responded to discussion in a recent meeting that she felt portrayed her in a poor light.

A letter from Sean Smith, a Crossville resident and the chief pilot for Mastercorp, Inc., was received by the city in which Smith expressed concerns about the possible misunderstanding of the investment of his employer and he encourages council members to visit the airport to get a better idea of the operation and benefits to the city.

Smith starts out saying, “I do appreciate your concern for watching the taxpayers' money and making sure that it is spent in the proper manner.” Smith goes on to point out that the aircraft hanger currently under construction will cost $450,000 along with the $100,000 value of the taxiway extension that together total $550,000, close to the cost of the property purchased for the airport expansion.

All of the value is being leased by the company for 20 years and at the end of that will become the property of the city with no cost at all to the taxpayers.

Smith also says that the company's current hanger is valued at $400,000 and is under a similar lease that will revert to the city's ownership when it expires.

Smith's letter says, “All of this was put on less than 2 acres of the airport property and leaves well over 15 acres for development. And of that 15 acres I believe it was stated that 14 of that was wetlands. I believe if you would walk the property you would see that is far from the truth. My next concern is the utility cost that was brought up at the last meeting. Mastercorp pays all electric and gas used at our hangars and always has.

“Something else I want to bring up is the dark light I feel has been shed on my employer Alan Grindstaff. It was made mention during the campaign that all the money at the airport was being spent for one man and his 'toys' in reference to Mr. Grindstaff.” Smith continued, “Mr Grindstaff has built a couple of great companies here in Crossville. He employees many people with good paying jobs with great benefits. Nationwide the company has over 5000 employees. He has invested nearly a million dollars in the airport and this is how he is treated? And I do assure you that 99% of all our use at the airport is business and not personal.”

Smith concluded his letter with an invitation to city council members, “I would like to take this opportunity to invite all of you out to the airport to see our facility and allow me to introduce each of you to the importance of aviation to the city. I realize you have busy schedules but I feel that many remarks and decisions are being made without knowing the true value of what you have here. I would be happy to talk with each of you and hopefully clear some things up and erase some of this negativity toward the airport and Mr. Grindstaff.”

Also related to the airport property purchase, city clerk Sally Oglesby wrote and distributed a memo last week as a follow up to the discussion at council's recent special called meeting. A memo Oglesby had written to city manager Curtis Adams in July of 2010 was read into the record by councilman Jesse Kerley that Oglesby wrote that in her opinion had “sullied my reputation and integrity.” Oglesby continued, “Unlike others, I was not provided with the opportunity or the respect to explain the memo and the circumstances under which it was written.”

Oglesby's new memo explains that when she received the initial appraisal from Randy Buttons she was concerned about the low value reported and immediately went to city manager Adams. Adams instructed her not to reveal the receipt of the appraisal until he talked to others. Oglesby wrote, “I do not know to whom he talked nor do I know who talked to Mr. Buttons.

“The context of (the original) memo is extremely important to understand,” continued Oglesby's recent memo. “The first part of the memo is strictly to report to Mr. Adams the reason for the change in the appraisal. The last paragraph was written by me to make clear to Mr. Adams that, if Councilman Dean or anyone else knew about the original appraisal it did not come from me. Remember, I was told not to reveal or discuss the original appraisal.”

The memo adds that Oglesby felt she had done nothing wrong because she had provided a copy of the original memo to all members of the council.

Oglesby's recent memo says that the city also sought a TDOT aeronautics grant in 2010 to help pay for the land purchase but there were no funds available. Had the city received that grant even another appraisal would have been required because the earlier appraisals would have been prior to the contract date and non-reimbursable.

Oglesby's memo concluded, “In my tenure as City Clerk, I have always tried to be honest and serve with integrity. My goal has always been to treat the members of Council with respect and provide them with all the information they need. I have tried not to interject myself in the decision making process unless specifically asked for an opinion. By Charter, I report to the city manager and I must follow his direction.”