Talk continues about the possibility of a new hangar for medical helicopters at the Greeneville-Greene County Municipal Airport.
At a special, called meeting Thursday, the Airport Authority voted to continue discussions with MedTrans Corporation, as circumstances surrounding the project's funding have changed since the idea was first discussed a year ago.
The only action taken during the brief meeting was a motion from board members directing Airport Authority Chairman Janet Malone to continue already-ongoing discussions with the company.
NO PUBLIC NOTICE GIVEN
Although the meeting was open to the public at the Greeneville-Greene County Municipal Airport, it was scheduled in apparent conflict with state laws requiring an "adequate" period of public notice.
Notice of the meeting was sent to The Greeneville Sun and other outlets at about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday ahead of the 9 a.m. Thursday meeting, leaving no opportunity for advance notice to be published in accordance with the state's Sunshine Law.
Asked to comment on the lack of public notice, Malone indicated that a simple mix-up with dates had occurred.
"I honestly thought today was Tuesday when I sent the notice," she said Wednesday evening. "However, when I received an email back from one of the (notice's) recipients informing me I used the wrong month in the subject line -- September instead of October -- I then realized it was Wednesday and not Tuesday."
Malone added, "If this meeting was for anything other than to have the board consider entering into discussions on a subject, I would have canceled the meeting and rescheduled, allowing for more notice."
Malone added that the Airport Authority had technically already voted to enter discussions with MedTrans more than a year ago.
"I wanted the called meeting to reiterate that the project was back on the table, but the funding element had changed," she said.
At Thursday's meeting, a brief update of the project was the only item of discussion.
Although the MedTrans project has been on the Airport Authority's radar for more than a year, it remains in the preliminary stages.
No binding agreements have been made between the two parties.
In October 2014, the Airport Authority voted to accept a letter of intent from MedTrans to build a new multi-aircraft hangar with office space.
At the time, board members said that company conducts business locally as Wings Air Rescue and has been based at Laughlin Memorial Hospital.
A new facility at the airport is being planned to accommodate medical helicopter crews, pilots and maintenance staff on an around-the-clock basis, board members said.
A preliminary engineering design was completed last year, but site plans have not yet been submitted for review by the Greeneville Regional Planning Commission.
Malone said that process is likely to begin in the coming weeks.
Airport Authority members have expressed strong support for the project.
"MedTrans has a solid reputation, not just for service, but for their business model also," Malone said.
She noted that the company already operates numerous facilities like the one they propose to build in Greeneville, including several in Tennessee as nearby as Sevierville and Gatlinburg.
When the project was initially discussed, the Airport Authority hoped to fund the new facility with grant funds from the Tennessee Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration.
Local matches to those funds were to be paid using lease payments from the company for the facility.
However, in the months since the proposal was first discussed, board members learned that the grants could not be used for the work.
At this week's meeting, Malone told board members that MedTrans has proposed to build its own facility and enter a long-term lease agreement for the site on the airport's grounds.
Malone noted that it is typical for ownership of the building to revert back to the airport after such long-term lease agreements.
"Funding will not come from the airport," she said, adding, "It's just preliminary. There's nothing binding with this."
More details about the project are likely to be discussed at future meetings of the board.