SPEDA forgives loan to airport; former development foundation had no record of it

·3 min read

Oct. 13—Members of the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) board agreed to forgive a $75,000 loan to the Lake Cumberland Regional Airport — mainly because SPEDA didn't even know it existed until airport officials pointed it out to them.

The loan was given to the airport in 2011 by the board that SPEDA replaced, the Somerset-Pulaski County Development Foundation (SPCDF).

SPEDA CEO/President Chris Girdler explained Tuesday to members of the current board that there was no record of the loan on their books. No information on the loan was in any of the SPCDF's files, and it hadn't been included in any of the SPCDF's audits.

"It's just further evidence of the tremendous lack of oversight" over the previous board's finances, Girdler said.

SPEDA has sued former SPCDF employees over what SPEDA said was $400,000 in taxpayer funds misappropriated and used for those employees personal use. That civil lawsuit is still under consideration in Pulaski Circuit Court.

Girdler said it was zero-interest loan, and that it was given out at a time when local officials were trying to keep the unused airport terminal from being mothballed.

It was also given at a time, Girdler said, that the airport received a dedicated stream of money from Pulaski County Government in the form of occupational tax revenues.

In 2014 — before current Judge-Executive Steve Kelley came into office, Girdler pointed out — that occupational tax money was no longer being dedicated to the airport.

"The airport came upon some tough times financially, and its been a rollercoaster for the airport from year to year. So their ability to repay this loan was not there," Girdler said.

Girdler was not aware that the loan existed until this August, when Airport Manager Kellie Baker told him the loan was coming due.

Due to the fact that SPEDA didn't know about it, the fact that SPEDA is utilizing the airport a lot recently such as making it the site of the Lake Cumberland Airshow, and because SPEDA feels the airport is important to the region, Girdler asked SPEDA members to forgive the loan.

SPEDA board members promptly agreed, and wiped the loan.

Attending Tuesday's SPEDA meeting was Dr. Carey Castle, president of Somerset Community College, there to discuss college business. Castle is also a member of the airport board, and as such offered a "big thank you" to SPEDA for forgiving the loan.

"I will tell you, the airport board has been heavily engaged in trying to bring the airport to a place where people really see the value of it. We have struggled with the budget for the last couple of years that I've been a member, and I'm really excited to hear this," Carey said.

Also at the SPEDA meeting, Girdler gave an update on the proposed Veterans Park, saying that he plans to have an announcement next week on having a title sponsor for the park.

The park is planned to go in at the corner of North Main Street and West Oak Street in Somerset, across the street from Dairy Queen.

Girdler said next week's announcement would also have information on how to become a sponsor for various components of the parks, including benches, trees and bricks.

The announcement may also include information on when a groundbreaking may take place.

"We're very grateful in Pulaski County to have a lot of various monuments paying tribute to our veterans, but this will be the first true park," Girdler said.

He added that the project would also help with storm water mitigation in that area, because plans include ways of helping with chronic flooding in that area.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting