March 01 -- ELLSWORTH, Maine -- The Federal Aviation Administration has determined that Hancock County can use its airport revenues as it has in the past as long as county officials keep better records that can demonstrate FAA financial rules are not being violated.
In a letter the FAA sent to county officials on Feb. 19, the agency said the county can use airport funds to cover county administrative costs related to financial and human resources expenses at the airport, which tend to total around $15,000 each year.
The county also is allowed to invest airport revenue as long as airport officials are apprised of such investments, the county keeps more complete records of those investments, and all the money used or earned in those investments ends up back in the airport coffers.
"The FAA considers the past compliance concerns associated with this matter resolved," the letter indicates.
According to FAA rules, revenue generated at any airport that receives FAA funding is not allowed to be spent on expenses not related to the operation of that airport.
The FAA conducted the review after Allison Rogers, manager of Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport, told county commissioners she had concerns about how Phil Roy, the county's chief financial officer, was using airport funds. Rogers told commissioners in July 2011 that she learned of Roy's actions regarding the airport funds after the fact and that she thought FAA accounting rules may have been broken.
At the time, commissioners said they would provide FAA with information the agency requested and would wait to hear back from the agency before they considered the matter further.
Percy "Joe" Brown, chairman of the county commissioners, said Thursday that he had expected FAA would not find that any airport money had been spent or invested inappropriately. He said he does not mind instituting more detailed accounting measures to satisfy agency officials.
"I was always confident it would be resolved in this fashion," Brown said. "I'm glad it's resolved. I'm sure everybody is."
Roy echoed Brown's comments, saying the letter shows that he had appropriately invested the airport's money, as county commissioners had asked him to, and that there was nothing wrong with how the money was put to use.
"We could have done it better," Roy said. "We can always do things better."
Rogers did not respond to a request for comment left Thursday afternoon at the airport.
The county airport is qualified to receive $1 million in FAA funding each year as long it has at least 10,000 enplanements each year. "Enplanements" is a term that describes the number of paid passengers on planes that take off from the airport.
The county is planning to build a $2.5 million addition to the airport's terminal building, of which $1.9 million would be funded by the FAA, approximately $450,000 would be paid by the county, and another $100,000 would be funded by the Maine Department of Transportation.
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Vernace told the county during that August meeting that he didn't think the FAA would support shortening the runway because it might cause airport businesses to lose revenue through lower fuel sales.
FAA won't go along with county's request to deactivate portion of runway.
The county has $7 million in FAA and state grants and it has applied for another $5 million grant, said Airport Director Mike Moon.
The airport directory said a lng-term reimbursement plan by the Federal Aviation Administration has been approved.