Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Airport board trimmed

Kenton chief says it will operate better if smaller

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HEBRON - Kenton County Judge-executive Ralph Drees told the county's Airport Board Monday that he was dramatically reshuffling the organization that oversees Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Drees, a former airport board member, said he was reducing the size of the volunteer board from 18 to 13 or 14 members and limiting members' time on the board, which oversees the airport's $90 million-plus budget.

Kenton County owns the airport, which operates under a separate authority overseen by the board primarily appointed by the judge-executive.

"I feel like the board has always micromanaged the airport, and I always felt that two terms was enough when I was on a board; so now that I have the authority, I'm doing something about it," said Drees, a Republican who was appointed to his position in January and left the airport board last year.

The board consists of seven full voting members, all Kenton County residents who are appointed by the judge-executive and who serve four-year terms. There are another 11 advisory members, who serve two-year terms and who can vote in committees but not on final board motions and resolutions.

The city of Cincinnati; the Kentucky governor; and Boone, Campbell, and Hamilton County each appoint one advisory member, while Kenton County gets six advisory appointments.

Drees, who used to run Greater Cincinnati's largest home-building company, said he will let the current six Kenton County advisory members fill out their terms and will not reappoint them.

Four of the positions will go dark, and the other two will go to people who either live or work in Hamilton County or Cincinnati, Drees said.

The judge-executive also said he would ask Gov. Ernie Fletcher not to appoint anyone to Kentucky's advisory board position in the future, shrinking the board to 13.

Drees told the board that he is not intending any statutory changes; he will just let the four positions go unfilled.

In addition, he said he wanted members to serve only two terms, or possibly three, and that he was limiting advisory members to three two-year terms. The Cincinnati appointment already has such a term limit.

"To be honest, we kind of expected it, knowing Ralph," board member Bert Huff said.

In other news:

• Airport officials told the board that the new runway project will cost $15.5 million more than originally estimated, with the new cost projected at $252.6 million. The project, which includes an 8,000-foot north/south strip and a 2,000-foot extension to the existing east-west runway, is still on schedule to open in late 2005.

About $13 million of the additional cost is coming in land acquisition. The airport had two major settlements with property owners in the past year and still has to buy out another nine owners.

• The board voted to switch to another contractor to perform more than $877,000 worth of sound insulation on more than 60 homes because the original company was having financial troubles.


E-mail jpilcher@enquirer.com

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