By Clellie Allen
LOUISBURG — The anticipated vote on the new Franklin County park was nearly overshadowed during the time for public comments when former Triangle North Executive Airport service manager Bruce Allen aired what he believes are serious problems with how the airport is managed.
“I’ve written Ms. Harris that death is possible at Triangle North,” Allen said, referring to a grievance letter he says he sent County Manager Angela Harris after not getting a response from the Airport Commission. Allen told the board he resigned at the end of July as conditions had become untenable for him to continue.
Airport Manager Steve Merritt, however, says the situation is not nearly as dire as Allen made out.
“I think this is a case of extreme differences of opinion on how things should be done,” Merritt said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I think the Airport Commission would generally agree with me that we’re headed in the right direction. I am always open to making changes.”
Allen, who received two unanimous votes from commissioners to extend his allotted time to speak, displayed numerous photos of what he says show the serious problems that are going unaddressed.
He covered everything from vegetation being allowed to grow up along security fencing to overcrowding in hangars, cracks in the pavement of fuel containment areas and fire hydrants and approach lights surrounded by overgrown grass.
“There is no test equipment to check suspended water in fuel,” Allen told commissioners.
Additionally, Allen said that as he relayed his concerns to management during the five years he worked for Triangle North, he was belittled as being “stupid” and “dumb as rocks,” even though he served as an air traffic controller with the U.S. Air Force. He also said that neither Merritt nor the airport commission has ever taken action to correct the deficiencies.
Merritt, who has managed the airport for several years, was present at the county commissioner’s meeting Monday and saw Allen’s presentation. Tuesday, he refuted Allen’s claims and said that like any business, the airport is always addressing issues as they arise. He also said that as the sole manager for the last few years, he is proud to be able to say that he has increased aircraft population during a recession, reaching out not only to Franklin County residents but also to those in Wake Forest, Rolesville and northern Wake County.
“The airport operates at no net cost to the citizens of Franklin County,” Merritt wrote in a news release. “According to a study by the Institute for Transportation Research and Engineering at NCSU, the Triangle North Executive Airport has a total economic impact on Franklin County of $23,840,000 … nearly double the value … reported in 2006.”
Allen, who was told by Commissioner Sidney Dunstan to suspend his comments after 30 minutes, said he would be back to share more with commissioners, adding he took his job with the airport out of a love and concern for Franklin County.
Dunston told Allen that the “appropriate venue” for discussion about airport problems was the Airport Commission.
“This will be my forum,” Allen replied, telling commissioners that the airport was ultimately their responsibility.
“I’ll be back,” he said.
County offers to buy Franklinton water, sewer
Capping an eventful meeting, the commissioners’ last action was an unanimous vote to approve a memorandum of under-standing (MOU) to buy Franklinton’s entire water and sewer system. The MOU was delivered by e-mail Tuesday to the Franklinton town council with a letter from Harris saying she hopes the council “will find the agreement favorable.”
The terms are as follows:
The town would convey … to the county the entire water and sewer infrastructure, water plant, contracts, property rights, territory and town customers (collectively, the “system”).
In return, the county would:
•be responsible for payment of the debt associated with the system, approximately $2.5 million as of June 30;
•be responsible for payment of any town obligations to customers for security deposits, approximately $58,000.
•pay the town the amount its Utility Enterprise Fund owes its General Fund as of June 30 last year (2013), approximately $141,000 and
•charge town customers inside and outside town limits at county rates, which the county asserts is about 42 percent less than existing town rates based on consuming 5,000 gallons per billing cycle.
The county also said it would release the town from any claims related to its use of the 16” line which is claimed to be owned by the county.
If an agreement is reached, closing would take place within 120 days of signing.