WHAT OTHERS SAY: Mixture of factors fuel airport decision

Sunday, September 23, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Some decisions are difficult to evaluate without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.

Among them is the decision by the Jefferson City's City Council to contribute $100,000 to Columbia Regional Airport. A similar decision regarding another $100,000 contribution now is being weighed by the Cole County Commission.

The issue is complicated by a number of factors. Consider:

• Jefferson City government contributes to its own airport, Jefferson City Memorial Airport. The local Airport Advisory Commission opposed the contribution to Columbia Regional, citing local needs.

• Council members pointed out, correctly, the two airports serve different functions. Memorial Airport traffic centers on private businesses, medical flights and state government. In contrast, the donation to Columbia Regional is designed to attract and retain a commercial carrier to provide passenger service.

• The name itself — Columbia Regional — can be a bone of contention for Jefferson City residents weary of comparisons to Columbia. They tend to wince when fellow residents favor amenities — dining, entertain, health care — offered by our northern neighbor.

• Jefferson City’s contribution was not necessary. Prior to council action, the city of Columbia reportedly secured the $3 million it sought to guarantee profits for a potential commercial airline.

• The local contribution, however, may be returned. The money will be added to what is tantamount to an escrow fund to guarantee profits. If a commercial airline is profitable, the money remains unspent and may be returned.

• The ultimate goal is stable, dependable air service at an airport within about 20 minutes driving time for Jefferson City residents. Attainment of the goal would boost convenience for local customers and potential for economic development.

Combining all those factors in the evaluation blender produces a strange brew, indeed.

Overall, the concoction is digestible, even palatable. Hopefully, Jefferson City won’t experience any adverse side effects.

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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