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Counties poised to weigh in on Charlotte airport controversy

By Julie Rose
wfae.org

The five counties bordering Mecklenburg would suddenly have a voice in Charlotte Airport management if Senate Bill 81 passes. That's the measure sponsored by Matthews Senator Bob Rucho to pry the airport from Charlotte's grasp and place it in the hands of a 13-member regional board.

To date, none of the counties included on that board have taken a clear stance on the move, but that may soon change.

Both Union and Gaston County Commissions are considering passing resolutions in support of the legislation. Gaston County Commission Chairman Mickey Price says he's happy with how Charlotte has run the airport, but welcomes a seat at the table.

"We have had informal talks with each of us on the board and we think it's a good thing to have a voice in probably one of the biggest assets that affects our county as far as recruitment and industry," says Price.

Commission chairmen in Lincoln and Iredell Counties say they're not considering resolutions of support for the bill, mainly because it's moved so quickly through the legislature it doesn't appear to need extra help. But both also worried, initially, the bill might one day lead to a Charlotte Airport Authority taking over their own regional airports in Lincolnton and Statesville.

Iredell County Commission Chairman Steve Johnson says backers of the bill have assuaged that concern. He sees the effort as mainly a Charlotte controversy and says he wasn't keen on Iredell County being part of the regional authority.

"I mean at first I was not too crazy about sitting on the board and getting embroiled in Charlotte area politics," says Johnson. "Because uh, sometimes I question the sanity of those folks down there to be quite honest with you."

Johnson says the Iredell County Commission has since warmed to the idea of having a seat on a regional airport authority, but says it was an offer the "came out of the blue."

Cabarrus County Chairwoman Liz Poole plans to address the bill at her commission's next meeting. While she's indifferent about the need for a Charlotte Airport Authority – Poole says if one is created, Cabarrus County wants on it.

WFAE is part of the Charlotte News Alliance, a consortium of media outlets.

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