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Airport authority struggling with financial issues

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 6:45 p.m.

Struggling with serious financial issues, the Fayette County Airport Authority decided to move quickly Wednesday evening to hire a new airport manager and to advertise to hire an assistant manager.

In a split decision, the authority voted 3-2 to name John “Bud” Neckerauer as airport manager at an annual salary of $42,000, effective immediately. Neckerauer, who will receive health insurance benefits, is expected to start his new position before the end of the week.

Authority chairman Fred Davis and members Samuel Cortis and Matt Thomas voted to hired Neckerauer, a pilot who owns an airplane and leases hangar space at the Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport in Dunbar Township.

Voting against the hiring were authority members Jesse Wallace and Myrna Giannopoulos.

When asked why she voted against hiring Neckerauer, Giannopoulos said, “I just felt it was the best move I could make.”

Neckerauer, who works for a trucking company, has a CDL (commercial drivers license), one of the qualifications listed recently when the authority advertised the position.

Thomas said Neckerauer has no experience with airport management.

“We feel that Neckerauer will be a good fit for the position because he is on the same page with authority members,” said Thomas, indicating that board members plan to make a fresh start.

The authority plans to advertise for an assistant manager who has experience with data entry, bookkeeping, the Quick Books accounting program and Microsoft Word and Excel.

“We would like to hire someone to fill that position as soon as possible,” said Davis, indicating the authority is struggling to figure out its financial situation.

The authority wants to hire McClure & Wolf, a Uniontown accounting firm, to complete an audit of its financial records to determine its financial state, but the authority owes the firm between $4,600 and $8,200. Authority members said they plan to talk to McClure & Wolf to see if the firm is willing to help.

“We really don't even know how much we owe them right now because we haven't had an airport manager since January,” Davis said. “We need to figure out what's going on with our financial situation.”

The airport recently received a shut-off notice from the North Fayette County Municipal Authority because it owes the water company at least $3,000, according to Davis. An additional $3,000 is owed to West Penn Power Co., and the airport is about $14,000 behind in recent bills it received from Columbia Gas.

“We paid over $9,000 in utility bills, but we still owe a lot more money,” Giannopoulos said.

Davis, Thomas and Cortis said they have no idea how much money the airport has in its bank accounts. Nor did Giannopoulos know.

When asked if authority members believe funding could have been misappropriated, authority members denied any possibility of wrongdoing.

“We don't think any money is missing. We just don't know where the money is right now,” Davis said. “We haven't been able to keep track of our books since our previous airport manager (Mary Lou Fast) resigned.”

After Fast resigned in January, Giannopoulos volunteered to assume the airport manager duties until the authority hired a new airport manager.

“When I volunteered for the office duties, I told you I didn't have any experience with Quick Books,” Giannopoulos said. “I've been doing the best I can do.”

Wallace said he supports Giannopoulos and commended her for helping out the authority in a time of need.

Cindy Ekas is a freelance writer.

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