invisible hit counter
Resignations pile up after decision
ST. MARYS -- City officials might live to regret their decision Monday to delay a request for state and federal funding to build a security fence around the St. Marys Airport.

That's the legal opinion of Frank Drane, a lawyer and airport authority member.

He and other authority members asked city officials to approve a request for the release of state and federal funding already approved to build the fence after three separate incidents of vandalism of runway lights at the airport this year.

Their concern is the broken glass scattered on runways from the acts of vandalism could have caused a serious accident to aircrafts during takeoffs and landings.

At Monday's meeting, however, City Manager Steven Crowell said daily inspections of the runway by the airport's fixed base operations manager, increased patrols by the St. Marys Police Department and repairs to the sections of existing fencing will help protect the city from liability if vandalism occurs there again.

Despite the added precautions, Drane said the city has lost its defense of sovereign immunity against a lawsuit by delaying the request for funding to pay for construction of a perimeter fence.

"If there is a serious accident, a jury will determine liability," he said. "The city has chosen a different route, so they assume the risk. Hopefully, there will never be a claim. It's a gamble."

Drane said he plans to announce his resignation from the authority at the Dec. 11 authority meeting. His resignation is the second in less than two months.

Former authority member Ray Hein resigned in October, citing the St. Marys City Council's inaction on authority requests and lack of personal liability protection.

"It's obvious we're not compatible," Drane said of the authority's relationship with city council members. "I can't do anything to change the direction to that airport. I'm not helping by serving on this thing. We're essentially janitors."

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at, on Facebook or at 464-7655.

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