Just one week after losing her reelection bid, Henry County Chairman BJ Mathis is moving forward with plans to cement her legacy of unsustainable spending that will benefit her crony campaign supporters.
What many voters found particularly offensive this election was Mathis’ lack of priorities when she purchased Tara Field Airport while at the same time laying off and furloughing County employees. Mathis claimed it was all in the name of “Economic Development” but voters knew the truth that Mathis was using our tax dollars to pay back her supporters and we rejected her for it.
Rather than graciously accept the will of the voters -that the overspending and cronyism must stop – Mathis has instead chosen to flip us the proverbial bird during her lame-duck period before leaving office.
According to the posted agenda for next Tuesday’s meeting, the BOC plans to approve a long term contract for management of Tara Field Airport. This will ensure Henry County is contractually obligated to operate the airport for decades to come as justification for the costly expansion being shoved down our throats.
And to be clear, multimillion dollar plans to expand the airport continue despite the fact that we’re broke. The Commissioners just raised our property tax rates last month and our debt on just the Cottonfields Golf Course alone is a ticking time bomb with a nearly $5 million balloon payment due in 2017 as shown in the 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report:
Airport Expansion Will Cost Henry County $7 Million
The Georgia Department of Transportation recently published on its website the Capital Improvement Program Report (scroll down and click on the report)for Tara Field Airport which outlines the six year plan for expansion. Mathis has insisted from day one that the airport was a bargain basement deal since the County’s portion of the purchase was only $2.7 million of the total $17.7 million price tag. But the fact of the matter is that of the total $52 million estimated cost of the expansion nearly $7 million of it will come directly from Henry County taxpayers.
This document also destroys the argument that “Economic Development” will magically erupt from this airport any time soon, if ever, because the “improvements” are not slated to be completed until at least 2017.
And if the price tag alone doesn’t offend you, a look at some of the details of this report shows that the crony payoffs to campaign donors will also proceed as planned.
The original airport property appraisal (9Mb.pdf) conducted in early 2011 included two tracts of privately owned land in addition to the property owned by Clayton County. Mathis’ originally wanted to purchase a 66 acre tract from Tara Field Development, LLC, owned by William Douglas Walker of Fayetteville; and another 97 acre tract owned by Big 5 Enterprises, LLC. The Big 5 owners are Dr. Jeffery Curtis, owner of The Doctor’s Office medical practice, Danny Wisner owner of Atlanta Arms & Ammo, and of course, accused child molester Billy Abbate is the former managing partner of Big 5 Enterprises.
From page 6 of the appraisal:
A look at Mathis’ 2008 campaign disclosures shows the following contributions to her campaign:
- $850 from The Doctor’s Office and Big 5 owner Jeffrey V. Curtis
- $3,000 from Billy Abbate’s In-Law’s (at the time) Clyde and Sherry Harrison (she was also VP of Abbate’s business Quality Physicians Services)
- $2300 from Atlanta Arms & Ammo and Big 5 owner Danny Wisner
- $2000 from William Douglas Walker owner of Tara Field Developments, LLC
- Also Mathis rented office space from Abbate which she used for her campaign headquarters in the 2008 election.
Although neither of their properties ended up being purchased in the deal last year (likely because of the citizen push back against Big 5 and Billy Abbate’s failed movie studio debacle), plans are still on track to ensure Mathis will payoff her donors. According to the above cited GDOT Capital Improvements Program Report (CIP), a 66 acre land acquisition is slotted to occur in 2015 for a “North Terminal”. As it just so happens, Mathis donor William Douglas Walker, the owner of Tara Field Development, LLC, owns a 66 acre tract.
Also on the schedule to occur in 2017 is a 13 acre land acquisition for “Through the Fence parcels”. This undoubtedly will give Big 5 their long sought-after easement access they’ve been pursuing since 2006. This is what I wrote about that last year:
Also in Abbate’s proposal [to Clayton County BOC] was his desire to build a 480 unit condominium project as well as airplane hangars on his newly purchased land. This would require Clayton County to agree to sign a “Through the Fence” (TTF) agreement which would give easement access to the airport grounds from his new development. In exchange, he would agree to give Clayton County access to the Henry County Sewer system via his property.
On September 5, 2006 by a vote of 4-0 Clayton County BoC (CCBoC) approved Resolution 2006-127 which authorized a Through the Fence agreement in principle, subject to negotiations and agreement of Chairman Eldrin Bell on the final terms. The resolution did not direct the Chairman to execute the proposed agreement. Although discussions continued regarding terms for a proposed easement access agreement, no final agreement was ever reached. According to court documents (p.5), Bell had concerns about the size, location, and ultimate control of the FBO, and also whether the FAA would approve the plan.
On October 27, 2006 a contract was signed between Clayton County and Executive Aircraft Storage, LLC, William Abbate, Administrator, to construct the FBO and improvements on the airport. However, this agreement did NOT grant Abbate easement access [TTF] to the airport from his adjacent property.
A special meeting of the Commissioners was arranged for December 11, 2006 in which only three of the Commissioners attended, two of which only had 19 days left in office. …
During the special meeting, Resolution 2006-181 was approved by a vote of 3-0 which authorized “…Clayton County to enter into a revised Through the Fence agreement granting access easement associated with proposal from William L. Abbate.” Immediately following the meeting, the TTF contract was executed and signed by Vice-Chairman J. Charley Griswell and Billy Abbate.
On December 12th, less than 24 hours later, at a properly called regular meeting of the CCBoC in which all five members were present, the Commission voted 3-2 to rescind approval of Abbate’s TTF contract.
Abbate sued and lost to Clayton County twice in an effort to force the Through the Fence agreement. He later filed in Henry County Superior Court, Book 010079, page 195 the rescinded “Airport Access Easement, Lease and Permit” dated December 11, 2006 and iused it to have the property rezoned. He produced it to the Henry County Zoning Board, the ARC, and the Henry County Board of Commissioners as “evidence” of an agreement with Clayton County which granted him easement access to the airport when he, in fact, there was none.
But, according to the GDOT, that will change in 2017 and it appears BJ Mathis will have finally succeeded in getting Big 5 their long-sought Through the Fence agreement just as I predicted.
Lynn Westmoreland’s Airport Crony Paybacks?
To be fair to BJ Mathis, it is necessary to mention that there is at least one other politician to whom all these these donors/airport land owners all appear to favor. You’ll recall it was Congressman Lynn Westmoreland who procured $15 million in funding from the FAA to secure the purchase of the airport last year.
As it so happens, William Douglas Walker and his family have been prolific donors to Congressman Lynn Westmoreland’s campaign coffers. This 1992 filing (p.14) with the Georgia Secretary of State shows William Douglas Walker, Bernard Walker, and Harold O’Dell Walker as members of the Board of Directors of Walker Concrete Company, Inc. All three of them, along with their immediate family members, have donated at least $27,750 to Lynn Westmoreland since 2004:$300 12/30/2003 Jo Ana Walker $2000 6/9/2004 Harold Walker $1000 7/26/2004 Bernard Walker $1000 7/29/2004 Jo Ana Walker $2000 8/4/2004 Doug Walker $2000 8/4/2004 Debra Walker $1500 10/12/2004 Doug Walker $2000 3/11/2005 Harold Walker $2500 3/25/2005 Doug Walker $300 6/28/2005 Jo Ana Walker $1700 6/28/2005 Doug Walker $100 6/30/2005 Harold Walker $1000 11/4/2005 Jo Ana Walker $300 5/30/2006 Jo Ana Walker $1700 5/30/2006 William Walker $1000 9/25/2006 Bernard Walker $1000 9/25/2006 Jo Ana Walker $1000 9/25/2006 Sue Walker $250 9/16/2008 Bernard Walker $2300 9/30/2008 William Walker $2300 9/30/2008 Debra Walker $1000 6/30/2009 William Walker
But that’s not all. Karen Curtis, wife of Big 5 owner Jeffrey Curtis, has also contributed at least $5,600 to Lynn Westmoreland since 2005:$1000 6/28/2005 $2100 9/25/2006 $1000 9/15/2008 $1000 3/31/2010 $500 10/21/2010
Granted William Douglas Walker is the land-owner who stands to profit here, but I have to wonder if an allegiance to the Walker family was Congressman’s Westmoreland’s inspiration for his involvement in the Tara Field purchase. The FAA had virulently refused to issue a Through the Fence easement access to this public airport since 2006 but now all of sudden they’re A-okay with it and Jeffrey Curtis and his wife stand to make a fortune now.
Westmoreland sits on the Aviation Subcommittee of House Transportation and Infrastructure; has the largest airport in the world (ATL) adjacent to his District and the busiest Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZTL in Hampton) in the FAA is within the boundaries of his District. Suffice to say he’s in a position to get things done with the FAA.
Contact your District Commissioner and tell them to vote against any further action on this airport money pit until the Lame Duck period is over and new Commissioners are seated. The election results were a message that the spending must stop and these Lame Duck Commissioners – Mathis, Holder, and Stamey – have no moral authority to enslave the taxpayers any more than they already have.