Cobb’s McCollum Field braces for worst in budget battle
by Nikki Wiley
September 24, 2013 12:15 AM | 3163 views | 1 1 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As Congress continues to risk a government shutdown by delaying the passage of a federal budget, the county’s airport is preparing for the worst.
As Congress continues to risk a government shutdown by delaying the passage of a federal budget, the county’s airport is preparing for the worst.
MARIETTA — As Congress continues to risk a government shutdown by delaying the passage of a federal budget, the county’s airport is preparing for the worst.

It’s unlikely that a government shutdown would have a far reaching impact on the operation of county government, Cobb Chairman Tim Lee said, but the Cobb County Airport-McCollum Field is bracing for the possibility of Federal Aviation Administration funding disappearing.

Airport staff will ask the Board of Commissioners today to approve an agreement that would allow the county to fund air traffic control operations at the airport in the event the FAA discontinues the funding due to the government budget stalemate, said Karl Von Hagel, airport manager.

The agreement would allow the airport to draw on $261,416 in its operating account to pay for air traffic control operations for up to 12 months, if needed.

“Nobody knows how long it will last,” Von Hagel said of a proposed government shutdown. “We don’t even know if it will happen. We’re preparing for the worst case scenario.”

If the FAA does continue to fund air traffic control operations, the money would stay in the airport’s budget for other uses.

About 200 aircraft are based at the airport that sees an average of 170 takeoffs or landings each day. A 2010 state economic impact study said the airport supports 842 jobs and pumps $112.4 million into the local economy.

Other county departments would be only minimally impacted by a shutdown, Lee said, with some grants for certain programs in danger of being interrupted.

“There’s nothing operational, nothing critical, nothing substantial that we rely on federal dollars for,” Lee said.

With the Oct. 1 deadline to avoid a shutdown looming, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are in a stalemate with both accusing the other side of not compromising. Conservatives want to see Obamacare defunded while Democrats defend the law.

Lawmakers are considering separate bills that would let the United States avoid a first-ever default on its debt obligations. House Republicans are planning legislation that would attach a one-year delay in the health care law in exchange for the ability to increase the nation’s credit limit of $16.7 trillion.

No one can predict what might happen if the government suspends services, said Von Hagel.

“With this uncertainty taking place in Washington D.C. regarding the federal budget, an agreement has been made with the current control tower operator to continue to operate the control tower with minimum staffing and reduced hours to bridge any unexpected interruption in control tower services that may come about from the budget stalemate in D.C.,” Von Hagel said.

The potential shutdown is different from sequestration — across the board spending cuts — that took place last spring. Sequestration threatened to close 30 percent of all control towers in the country, Von Hagel said, but that issue was resolved in Congress.

“At this point sequestration has not had an effect,” Von Hagel said.

Future possible impacts have yet to be outlined, he said, because no budget has been adopted, but Von Hagel said both houses of Congress have expressed support for funding of air traffic controller operations.

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Bob Bummer
September 24, 2013
If the Cobb airport can operate with minimum staff and reduced hours why isn't it already being done? Doesn't the federal government have regulations and guidelines to follow for safety reasons? If the reductions will cause safety concerns then nothing should be changed however if safety and regulations will not be compromised then the reductions should be put in place immediately to reduce federal spending.
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