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Published: Thursday, 10/7/2004

Fulton County airport leader may resign

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The president of the Fulton County Airport board is considering resigning from his leadership post after a spat last week with the president of the Fulton County commissioners.

Jack Graf, president of the commissioners, hopes Harold Stickley, longtime airport board president, goes one step further and resigns from his board seat.

The latest in what Mr. Graf said is a series of clashes between the commissioners and Mr. Stickley occurred last Thursday.

Mr. Stickley asked the commissioners to co-sign a $650,000 state loan for the airport board so it could build a hangar for 16 aircraft. The airport board planned to pay back the loan in 10 years, he said, largely from the $250-a-month rental fees it planned to charge each aircraft owner.

The hangar would help the airport increase the number of aircraft based there, making it eligible for more Federal Aviation Administration money, Mr. Stickley said.

But the commissioners, faced with a budget crunch, declined to co-sign the loan after the county prosecutor's office told them they should put $650,000 in escrow to do so. And the $650,000, they were told, should not be taxpayer revenue, but money from funds such as license fees or court fines.

Mr. Stickley, who is leading the opposition to a proposed smoking ban in Wauseon on the Nov. 2 ballot, said yesterday he was upset the commissioners didn't tell the airport board earlier they wouldn't co-sign. Last Thursday's meeting with the commissioners was one day before a deadline for the loan approval.

The airport board has invested $10,000 to $12,000 in plans for the hangar, and board members have spent a significant amount of time on the project, he said.

He also was disappointed, he said, with Mr. Graf's demeanor during the meeting.

"He just kind of did a lot of yelling," said Mr. Stickley, who has been president of the airport board for about nine years.

Mr. Graf said Mr. Stickley was asking the commissioners for a large sum of money at a time when they are making tough cuts in next year's budget. And he found unfair Mr. Stickley's accusations that the commissioners were not supporting the airport because the county has invested about $1 million in the airport over 10 years.

He said county officials notified the airport board by letter soon after the prosecutor's office advised them on the loan. He said the airport board's time and expense in planning the hangar happened much earlier. "We don't have a problem with the airport board as much as we do with Harold Stickley," Mr. Graf said.

Mr. Stickley said he talked to the airport board this week about resigning as president, but didn't do so at that meeting. He plans to keep the seat on the board he's held for about 12 years.

As for the proposed hangar, Mr. Graf and Mr. Stickley agree that it likely can be built later under a different financing plan.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-337-7780.



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