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Many years ago the federal government "gave" an airport to the city of Williston as a grant. The gift had many strings attached so the government could take it back just as they took it from the farmer in 1942. The only difference is they will not have to compensate Williston when they take it back. The city of Williston is in effect a property manager for the federal government and receives no pay for this service.
The Williston airport has a long heavy duty runway that can handle large aircraft. It is a strategic asset to the federal government, so it will always be maintained. The feds convinced the city of Williston to do the job for them at no cost.
The airport is not an asset to the city. The city cannot sell any of the land. Any and all money generated by the airport must stay at the airport. Not one cent is allowed to go into the city treasury. This includes rent, fuel sales and timber sales.
The airport is a liability. Several years ago someone sued the airport and won. The airport did not have the money to pay the settlement, so the city of Williston had to pay. The airport still owes the city approximately a quarter of a million dollars and seems unwilling to pay. Airport supporters are hoping this debt will just disappear.
The city manager is also the airport manager and a percentage of his pay is supposed to be from airport funds. The airport was supposed to pay their portion of Mr. Coleman's severance pay. I have been assured that this has happened, but the accounting system is a bit fuzzy. If the airport is short of money, the city must cover the shortfall as well as the wages and benefits of the airport workers. City money is sometimes airport money, but airport money can never be city money.
Years ago when the city received this "gift" the citizens of Williston thought the airport would help the city grow and prosper. It did not happen, and I doubt it ever will. We need to return this gift to the federal government. Not much would change except the city would no longer be under the shadow of a catastrophic liability.
I am not anti-airport, I am merely trying to uphold my duty to look out for the interests of the city of Williston, Fla.
Michael P. Shoemaker
City Council member