LINCOLNTON – The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners approved an agreement at its Nov. 21 meeting for subleasing a future jet hangar at the Lincolnton/Lincoln County Airport to Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM).
The commissioners have not yet signed the contract, however, and will not do so until they get the design plans back with the estimated costs of building the hangar.
“Attached to this lease is the plans that say, ‘This is how we’re going to build that,’” Wesley Deaton, the county attorney, told the commissioners. “That still doesn’t cap the plans, and as you all know, sometimes things go over the cost. … The idea is if you get back your plans and suddenly they’re $3 million and you don’t like that, you just wouldn’t sign the lease.”
County Manager Kelly Atkins said the estimated cost of building the hangar was between $2 million and $2.5 million.
KBM would lease half of the hangar at $794 per month and would bring in about $90,000 in tax revenue, Commissioner Martin Oakes said. The jet would also purchase its fuel from the airport.
Joe Tate, manager of airport, said word has gotten out about the possibility of a jet hangar, and so far he has received two commitments for aircraft that are interested in the hangar as well as two more aircraft that he anticipates will use the hangar.
“I didn’t bring my calculator, but that’s probably a little over $100,000 in taxes to the county with no requirement for more police or more firemen or more schools,” he said. “It’s just bottom-line tax money.”
The airport is competing with Concord Regional Airport to house the jet, but Deaton said the tax rate in Concord is almost double that of what KBM would pay in Lincoln County. The Concord airport receives almost $800 per month to house a similar type of aircraft, and Commissioner Carrol Mitchem said he thought with the lower tax rate in Lincoln County, KBM should pay a higher rent.
“I could never justify a move like this if we only focused on lease amounts. It just would not make sense at all,” Tate said. “I think the way other airports do it is they look at the big picture, how much tax revenue we get, how much fuel sales we’re getting, how much lease money we’re getting.”
Mitchem also took issue with what he felt were like were promises instead of definites.
“I just have a problem there’s too many ifs, ands and buts and promises this and promises that, and I’ve not heard enough that I’d be willing to vote in favor of this,” Mitchem said. “It’s too much that’s not here enough, and I’d love to see it. I’m not going to argue that, but it’s hastily done. There’s not enough gravy on the steak.”
Mitchem asked Deaton how comfortable he was with the agreement.
“I’d advise we be very cautious because we’re not in the business of building hangars, and so you should proceed cautiously and carefully,” Deaton said.
Commissioner Bill Beam and Mitchem disagreed over the issue, as Beam said he believed the hangar would be a good investment that could help the airport become more self-sufficient. The airport currently receives about $60,000 each from the county and city annually, Tate said.
“Our tax dollars subsidize this airport each and every year, and we have each and every year that it’s existed,” Beam said. “We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars. We’re not talking about $790.”
Under the agreement, Tate said he has been promised that the jet would be at the airport a few days before Jan. 1, 2017, and would stay a couple days after so that it could qualify to have taxes paid on it in Lincoln County. It would then be housed at the Concord airport until the hangar was built.
Tate said other aircraft could follow, helping the airport in the long run.
“That’s a promise, and we can’t make decisions on a promise, but it could create a good trend for the airport,” he said.
Tate said he estimates that the new, larger hangar will equip the airport to handle about 97 percent of corporate jets that would show up while it now can only handle about 50 percent.
The airport does have hangar lease agreements with almost 100 smaller aircraft, but those agreements are year-to-year while Tate said this agreement would be more long term.
The commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the agreement, with Mitchem dissenting.