Commissioner Kris Knochelmann pushed for the legislation that will likely impair Kenton County’s ability to manage CVG, a $1 billion asset that has been owned and operated by the county for more than 70 years
Some of you may have read news accounts today about a legislative resolution (HCR183) introduced by Boone County state representatives Addia Wuchner and Sal Santoro in the Kentucky General Assembly on Thursday calling for a task force to recommend changes to the governance structure of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG).
I strongly oppose this resolution and I recommend that all Kenton County residents immediately contact their state legislators and do the same thing.
The idea of restructuring the Kenton County Airport Board and the way that board members are appointed to it was proposed by Kenton County Commissioner Kris Knochelmann, my opponent in the upcoming Judge-Executive election, in a press release his campaign issued on Oct. 13 and in letters that he sent local legislators. At the time, Knochelmann requested new “legislation that would change the Judge-executive’s power when it comes to making appointments to boards such as CVG.
I have great concern that these calls to change the governance structure at the airport, including the resolution currently before the Kentucky Legislature, are attempts to take CVG from its rightful owner — the people of Kenton County. These efforts, if successful, could eliminate or significantly diminish Kenton County’s governance of the airport and allow other counties or governmental agencies to obtain control of the airport.
CVG is a $1 billion asset that has been owned by Kenton County taxpayers for more than 70 years. Kenton County should not be forced to relinquish this important asset – or control of its governing board – to third parties for any reason, let alone political ones. To fully understand Kenton County’s position, one must first understand the history of the airport, the county’s investment in this important regional asset, and how it is governed.
In 1941, Kenton County purchased a tract of land in then-rural Boone County, and shortly thereafter, constructed the airport’s first terminal, a three-story brick building that remains at the airport today, at a cost of nearly $1 million. The county also spent $2 million to build four runways and other airport facilities in the 1940s. Since that time, the airport has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in numerous improvements, including construction of several new terminals, a new air-control tower, new parking structures, and many other infrastructure improvements. Today, CVG is a $1 billion asset without any debt, only one of two major airports without debt.
In terms of airport governance, in 1958, the Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation that created the Kenton County Airport Board, which gives authority to the Kenton County Judge-Executive to appoint members to this board. In 1964, Gov. Ned Breathitt created the “Kenton County Airport Advisory Committee,” and 1998, Gov. Paul Patton expanded and reorganized the Advisory Committee. These executive acts were designed to give Boone County and other local governments in the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati a seat at the table of the airport board.
I am strongly opposed to HCR183 because the current board structure has worked well for many decades, bringing tremendous economic development to our entire region, particularly Florence and Boone County, whose legislative representatives now seem intent on changing the governance structure. Members of the Advisory Committee fully participate in airport board committee meetings and they have full votes on these committees.
As Kenton County Judge-Executive, I have worked hard to appoint individuals to the Airport Board who represent areas outside of Kenton County, including Cincinnati and Hamilton County in Ohio. My appointments have included top executives from Procter & Gamble, GE Aviation Services, Humana Inc., Fifth Third Bank, major law firms, and other local companies as well as business owners and operators from throughout the region. I have also requested changes to the board’s travel, food, and alcohol policies — changes the board adopted last month.
Kenton County has made a tremendous financial investment in the airport, and it is patently unfair to take away or significantly diminish county control of the Airport Board. As Judge-Executive, I have worked hard to address issues that have arisen on the Airport Board, including appointing three new members to the Board on Feb. 28, and I have recommended that Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III, a well-respected lawyer and former chairman of the Airport Board, resume his position as chairman of the board. I think we should allow these new board members sufficient time to serve on the board before we make a rash decision to change its governance structure.
I find both amazing and ironic that Commissioner Knochelmann has called for a restructuring of the Airport Board, which is currently controlled exclusively by Kenton County. Now, two Boone County state representatives have now heeded his call and proposed the resolution that is currently before the General Assembly.
This raises an important question: Does Commissioner Knochelmann have the best interest of Kenton County at heart? If so, why would he recommend a course of action that, if successful, could take away or greatly diminish county control of an airport that Kenton County built and has operated for more than 70 years.
Return to the Re-Elect Steve Arlinghaus for Kenton County Judge-Executive website.