Options Exist for Financially Drained Pulaski Airport

 Pulaski County will likely soon begin looking into alternative options for Arens Field following budget difficulties in 2016.

This week, the Pulaski County Council cut funds from the airport’s budget at the request of the Department of Local Government finance, leaving just enough to pay for the single employees salary. Even that was reduced by $300. Operating the airport has become much more difficult given the lack budgeted costs for utilities and plowing the runways during the winter months.

Pulaski County Commissioner Larry Brady says there are a couple of options for the county to consider.

“Words were brought up at the meeting of looking into an Airport Authority – which would be its own taxing agency – thus removing it from the General Fund,” says Brady. “All that has been looking into: what is the make-up of that Airport Authority? What would it be like?”

If such a plan is completed, Pulaski County likely would have no involvement in the operation of the airport.

In the short term, the county’s easiest option may be to request additional funding, ultimately approved by the state. Other options include reviewing how the airport is operated and the fees being charged. Arens Field is partially funded through federal grants – which contain language preventing the airport’s closure.

Brady says they can move some responsibilities to other county departments.

“For cleaning up the runways during the snow, during the winter, the County Highway we’ll look at them to see if they can add that to their inventory to maintain that versus having it contracted out,” says Brady.

The County Council approved the cuts, in addition to $400-thousand in other cuts out of the General Fund budget to balance in fiscal year 2016.

Talks on the creation of an Airport Authority are expected to begin in the near future.