Opinion: Letters to the Editor
by The Press and Standard | May 13, 2018 5:00 pm
Last Updated: May 9, 2018 at 11:13 am
Questions about new business at local airport
I have read the press release and subsequent news article where Lowcountry Aviation finally announced that it is launching operations at the Lowcountry Regional Airport; both indicated that the company is going to invest $1.7 million and is projected to create 36 new jobs.
What happened to the 127 new jobs the company represented it was going to create when it got the airport commission to lease it the airport parcel in January 2017 (for $3,000 per year)? Or the $3.2 million it represented it was going to invest? The South Carolina legislature amended an agricultural jobs tax credit law to include the aeronautics industry — but regarding jobs, all Cavazzoni said in the article was “as the company grows, we will have more and more.” How many more? Colleton County taxpayers agreed to earmark a portion of the additional Capital Project Sales Tax (that was approved by voters in November 2014) to expand and renovate the airport terminal — which was supposed to cost $1.69 million — and is now under contract for $1.99 million. The airport commission is going to try to get a $500,000 grant from the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission, but the chairman of the airport commission said that if it doesn’t, the airport commission might have to dip into its budget. Who is funding the airport commission budget? Why didn’t the commission scale back the project? Aside from Lowcountry Aviation’s needs, why was this project even necessary — and why this scale?
What about the $1.69 million water and sewer project constructed to serve the terminal and the Lowcountry Aviation site? The county secured $1.28 million from the state and federal governments, but Colleton County taxpayers are paying for the other $400,000+ from the same Capital Projects Sales Tax (all figures were reported in the Press and Standard, so you can see them yourself if you check the online editions).
Checking the April 2018 figures from the S.C. Department of Employment & Workforce, Colleton County’s largest employers (not counting government agencies) include healthcare and forestry/construction/lumber industries. Have city and county officials expended the same effort and public funds on behalf of these companies?
Why will the airport commission agree to expend all these funds to support Lowcountry Aviation, but refuse to conduct an environmental assessment regarding the noise and safety issues that aircraft traffic has/will have on the surrounding areas — particularly over the North Lemacks Street neighborhood? Why didn’t they conduct an environmental assessment before the airport lengthened and strengthened the runway closest to this residential area? Would they refuse to do so if the property assessments on these houses were higher? Are the health and safety of these residents worth less than those living in other parts of town or are these residents and their homes expendable?
South Carolinians are currently grappling with who is going to pay for the failed V.C. Sumner-SCE&G/SCANA/Santee Cooper/Westinghouse nuclear power plant project; who was minding the mint? Reports estimate that SCE&G customers have been paying 18% of their utility bills toward this failed project for almost a decade with no clear indication that they will ever recoup these payments.
Another tidbit not mentioned in any local news reports: during the same time period when Lowcountry Aviation’s Marco Cavazzoni served as an executive with Boeing in North Charleston, he also served as the chairperson of a tax-exempt organization formed by the S.C. General Assembly: the S.C. Research Authority.
Nothing in the 30-year lease agreement between the airport commission and Lowcountry Aviation requires the company to invest a particular amount of money or hire a specific number of employees — or that the employees have to be residents of Colleton County. Does anyone really think that charter services will be bringing people to stay and spend money in Walterboro? Walterboro will truly become a “flyover” town, where wealthy people either send their pilots to pick up their planes that they have been storing at Lowcountry Regional Airport for far less than they would have to spend in larger cities (and charged far less in personal property taxes) — or head straight to Charleston after their chartered flights land.
How many Colleton County residents have aviation industry experience? Do you think Lowcountry Aviation is going to pay for this type of training when it could just hire employees from Charleston and Dorchester Counties who have worked at Boeing and still get the jobs tax credits? How do you know whether Colleton County will be paying for this training? Cavazzoni stated his company was going to work with community partners to put together “an integrated plan to attract the best and brightest.” He never said that Lowcountry Aviation was going to pay for the training. Who are these “community partners?” I would venture a guess that training could be provided at Thunderbolt, but shouldn’t Lowcountry Aviation foot the bill? Did Colleton County taxpayers underwrite the cost of training for the employees of other businesses in Walterboro/Colleton County?
Cavazzoni says he sees the potential at the airport as a “white canvas” which “can either scare you or start you drawing a wonderful picture.” If you talk to the residents of the North Lemacks Street neighborhood about the jets and planes that already are flying just above their houses as they descend to land at the intersection of Robertson Boulevard and North Lemacks, I was reminded of the old saying “if you’re not the lead dog the view never changes.”
Taxpayers — pay attention. Who do you think is looking out for your best interests? The airport commission is comprised of members of both city and county councils, as well as the county treasurer, the county auditor, and other officials. Ask them.
Los Angeles, Calif., and Walterboro
Remembering the good times
As we approach Mother’s Day, I went back to read the wonderful piece that you did on my mom last year. I had no idea it would be the last Mother’s Day that I would have with her. She called me the day your article came out and was so excited. She said, “This is the best Mother’s Day present ever.” You have no idea what that meant to her and me.
Again, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for that special gift that you enabled me to give her.
In loving memory of our Mother, Margaret Barnes, on this special Mother’s Day, Mary, John, Oliver and Ann
March 31, 1924 – July 10, 2017
My mother kept a garden,
a garden of the heart,
Fostering and nurturing
the seeds of self-esteem…
And when the winds and rain came,
she protected me enough —
But not too much because she knew
I’d need to stand up strong and tough.
Her constant good example
always taught me right from wrong —
Markers for my pathway
that will last a lifetime long.
I am my Mother’s garden.
I am her legacy —
And I hope today she feels the love
reflected back from me.
— Author unknown