Public/Private Cuts Both Ways

I spend a lot of time carping on when the private half of the public/private scams renege, but sometimes the public half plays the private for the sucker. Case in point: Branson stalls on paying fees to private airport:

Aldermen unveiled the $70.5 million budget to the public Tuesday but ultimately decided to postpone initial approval of it until they figure out whether they can find a way to fund a pay-for-performance agreement with the Branson Airport.

“I don’t think the city can appropriate the money for this year and for (2011) now,” said Alderman Bob Simmons. “That would be irresponsible.”

At issue is a contract, signed in 2006 and modified in 2010, in which the city agrees to pay $8.24 for each passenger the airport brings to the city. The city has not paid the final $260,000 bill for 2010 and did not include in its proposed 2011 budget the estimated $670,000 the city would be expected to owe the airport in 2011.

Alderwoman Sandra Williams said the city simply can’t afford the payments, although it has a $5.7 million carryover from 2010 it plans to put in its reserve fund.

Williams also said the contract with the airport never guaranteed that the city would always produce the funds.

“The payments are subject to annual appropriations and therefore, there can be no assurance that future boards will approve it,” she said.

Branson Airport CEO Steve Peet said the city is misinterpreting its ability to get out of the payments.

“Every long-term appropriation from a city has language like that,” Peet said. “If it’s for more than 12 months you have to have that language. It’s a way into the agreement, not a way out of it.” Peet would not discuss whether the airport would consider legal action.

Keep that in mind. Sometimes when you lie down with fleas, you get dogs.

Full disclosure: I love the Branson Airport. It’s tucked away nine miles into a golf course living development and sits atop a mountain. And it has direct flights to Milwaukee, although Branson would prefer to think it’s direct flights from Milwaukee.