An issue over the proper use of land at and around the Barnwell County Airport is finally being resolved.
"We now consider the land-use compliance inspection closed and all the discrepancies resolved," Larry Clark said in a Jan. 7 letter.
Clark, an assistant manager with the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration, sent the letter to representatives of Barnwell County.
It brings to a close a nearly eight-year audit and disagreement between the FAA and Barnwell County. The FAA audit began March 15, 2006.
Between then and now, countless letters, meetings and negotiations have taken place.
Back in early 2011, the FAA sent a letter to Barnwell County stating, "Barnwell County's sale of FAA released property was not consistent with the terms and conditions of the FAA Land Release Agreements."
It further stated that they "recommend Barnwell County take the necessary steps to deposit the $594,132 into the airport fund by June 1, 2011..."
To arrive at the $594,132 the FAA said is owed back to the airport, the FAA audit considered all of the properties that have been released by the FAA and the ones taken for use by the county.
Out of the two properties sold in 1989, the audit report called attention to one sold to K&M Manufacturing for $1,000 per acre. Similar land was sold to Barnwell Engineering at a cost of $3,955 per acre the same year.
In 1997, two properties, one sold to Mid American Metal for $2,507 per acre and a second which was sold to EFCO at a cost of $669 per acre, were part of the disagreement.
When other properties around the airport were sold, the proceeds from the sales were not deposited into the airport's capital fund, according to a letter from the FAA in 2011.
Those properties include those sold to CC McGregor, Chip Still and Joel Greene plus four vacant lots.
How this all came about
During World War II, the U.S. government created several training airfields around South Carolina for the war effort. Barnwell and Greenwood were two of them.
The U.S. government bought 1,162.64 acres from several Barnwell County landowners for the airport.
After the war, the War Assets Administration turned the management of the Barnwell airport over to Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), the precursor of the FAA, in 1947.
The land was to be kept and maintained as an airport with at least 10 percent public aviation access
The FAA signed an agreement with Barnwell County stating if the county wanted a specific tract of land from the airport property for non-aviation use, then the county had to go through a procedure to acquire it.
That procedure involved several steps.
One, the county had to get permission from the FAA to release that plot of land to the county's usage.
Two, the county had to compensate the airport at fair market value for the land.
Three, the money paid for the property had to go into a special fund for capital improvements to the airport and not into the county's general fund.
By the 1970s, the FAA could not maintain all the airports under its authority and began turning them over to the states, Grimes said.
The FAA turned over the Barnwell airport to the S.C. Aeronautics Commission, who in turn turned it over to the county, he said.
However, the FAA still maintains certain authority over the airport.
Land development around the airport has had many participants over the years and not all of them may have been aware of the FAA agreement.
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