Conroe, April 9 – The proposal of Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador, and Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley to spend $209,151.00 of unbudgeted tax dollars on runway cleaning and repainting of runway markings at the County Airport, a largely unused facility, is just as outrageous, childish, and irresponsible as a heroin addict’s use of that terrible drug. The Airport is a waste of money. The proposed cleaning is too expensive. There’s no money in the budget for the cleaning. Doyal, Meador, and Riley will put the County government into more debt to pursue this silly waste.
Just Say No to the Airport
The vast majority of Montgomery County residents and businesses don’t even know that the County government operates an airport, because very few people use it. A few companies use the airport. A real estate developer, Black Forest Ventures, has attempted to develop a terminal there, but they’re facing financial difficulties as a result of the lack of business and traveler interest. There has never been any serious analysis of whether the so-called “Conroe-North Houston Regional Airport” (a name which is more of a wish than anything resembling the reality) brings in any business to Montgomery County at all. If the Airport does bring in a small amount of business interest, is it worth it?
Just drive around the Airport area around Airport Boulevard and Loop 336 North. It’s not exactly the most active commercial area. There are some new real estate developments north of that area, because there is some beautiful forest remaining in which there are some great homesites. There’s nothing to suggest that the real estate development has anything to do with the Airport. In fact, the presence of the Airport may detract from the interest of people living near it, as airports always do.
For years, Meador, Doyal, and Riley have promised Montgomery County voters that the Airport would bring in great economic development. The obvious answer is to look at the Deison Technology Park next to the Airport. There’s nothing there. Businesses aren’t interested in locating near a largely inactive airport.
If the Airport is such a great economic opportunity, then perhaps the County should consider selling it to Mike Meador. He can enjoy the massive profits as long as he pays cash for the Airport up front. (The Golden Hammer can recommend some bankruptcy lawyers for Meador in that scenario.)
Overdose: The proposed runway cleaning and marking is overpriced
Airport Director Scott Smith, a County employee, seeks $209,151.00 to do a surface cleaning of 1,112,500 square feet of two runways and repainting of all runway markings. In his proposal, which has no backup calculations, estimates, or bids, Smith also notes that “Funds are available from 2012 Certificates of Obligation.”
In other words, Smith, Doyal, Meador, and Riley want the County to BORROW $209,151.00 for this complete waste of money.
Is $209,151.00 the right price? No, it’s an overdose of spending, which should not surprise you in the free spending Doyal-Riley-Meador regime.
How do we know that?
Well, in fact there’s a lot of literature on runway cleaning and repainting. Two of The Golden Hammer‘s favorite publications on these scintillating topics are, of course, A.W. Momber’s Hydrodemolition of Concrete Substrate and Reinforced Concrete Structures, a great but slightly outdated read, and the much more current Advisory Circular 150/5340-IL: Standards for Airport Markings, published by the friendly folks at the Federal Aviation Administration. There are also a lot of public bids as well as let contracts for airport runway cleanings and marking repaintings all of which follow the standards in the FAA’s Circular.
The cost of cleaning airport runways should not exceed 4 cents per square foot. That’s actually a price at the upper end of spending, particularly for airports which are government-owned. Therefore, the entire price of cleaning the runways, which usually primarily involves rubber removal, of course, should be 1,112,500 square feet times $0.04 per square foot, which equals $44,500.00.
Repainting airport markings is, of course, a bit of an art, but there’s also some precise calculation to it as well. Generally, the national standard for removal of airport markings is $1.18 per square foot, but both the FAA’s Circular and the actual practice of most airports is NOT to remove markings but rather repaint over them. It depends what colors you’re using for paint prices, which include the materials and labor. The national standard for black airport runway marking paint is $0.40 per square foot, while the national standard for other colors (yellow, white, orange, red) is $0.74 per square foot. Of course, one doesn’t repaint an entire runway. The rule of thumb is to divide by forty (40). Therefore, one would take the 1,112,500 square feet of the Doyal-Meador-Riley Airport, divide by 40, to get an estimate of 27,812.5 square feet of marking repainting.
Even assuming that our County government wastes money like an opiated wild man, and both removes the current markings and paints new ones, the national standard price should be ($1.18 per SF for removal plus $0.74 per SF for new markings) $1.92 per SF.
Then we multiply the price per square foot of $1.92 times 27,812.5 square feet of markings to give a price of $53,400.00, which should be the maximum price for runway marking repainting at the Montgomery County Airport.
The maximum cost of cleaning the runway at the Montgomery County Airport should be $97,900.00, although even that price includes unnecessary paint removal, which even the FAA doesn’t recommend.
Gotta steal since you can’t work: Not budgeted, so got to take the money from someone else
Addicts usually don’t have the ability to earn money. The Montgomery County Airport loses money hand over fist and it’s failed to spur any sort of economic development. The Civic Center loses money as a result. The Fairgrounds lie largely unused. The Deison Technology Park is a ghost town. The other areas around the Airport are pretty empty. There’s not much going on even along the Mighty Meador Parkway.
This spending request from Scott Smith, Doyal, Meador, and Riley in the middle of the budget year is completely disgusting. Smith is a full-time Airport Director. He should certainly have known long ago when the Airport would have required this maintenance expense. Smith, Doyal, Meador, and Riley failed to include this expense in the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget for the Airport.
The Airport’s Budget has exploded nonetheless. In Fiscal Year 2017, the Airport Department’s Budget is $759,168, which is a $153,550 increase from the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget for the Airport of $605,618, a 25.4% increase in one year! The Airport Department’s “promotional advertising” budget exploded from $7,000 in FY 2016 to $17,000 in FY 2017, a 143% increase in one year. The “professional development” budget for the Airport Department nuclear exploded from $3,254 in FY 2016 to $13,939 in FY 2017, a 328% increase in one year.
Don’t worry, Smith gave himself and his entire staff nice pay raises as well. While adding one staff member, from 6 to 7 employees, the salaries and benefits portion of the Airport Department Budget went from $532,796 in FY 2016 to $646,459 in FY 2017, a 21.33% increase in one year.
Smith obviously has failed to price the correct cost of cleaning and repainting the runway. The cost ought to be well under $100,000, which is less than his annual salary. Smith needs to do his job. That includes both budgeting properly during the County’s secretive “budget hearings” and obtaining proper pricing for services the Airport purchases.
Using the County’s “credit card” to get some smack: Smith’s, Doyal’s, Meador’s, and Riley’s proposal to incur debt to pay for the runway cleaning
When County Auditor Phyllis Martin announced that there remained $3.5 million unspent in 2012 Certificate of Obligation funds at the March 14, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting, of course, one might predict that her announcement would set off a spending free-for-all. At the March 14, 2017, meeting, Riley already called “dibs” on the entire $3.5 million to build a brand new community center in Precinct 2. Perhaps, we could name it the “Charlie Riley Memorial Community Center,” since Riley and Doyal haven’t yet named anything after themselves (Meador, of course, has).
The concept of not spending the money and not incurring the debt apparently required far too much philosophy, ideology, or self-restraint.
Therefore, no one should find Smith’s, Doyal’s, Meador’s, and Riley’s proposal to spend $209,151.00 for cleaning and painting the Airport runways from the unspent $3.5 million of debt very surprising.
They’re out of control. They’re addicted to spending the taxpayers’ money. They don’t even seem to care what they spend it on. They just love the feeling of the power of spending.
Does the Montgomery County government require rehab?