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The board that oversees the Clark County Airport put off a decision yesterday on bids for one of its major expenses -- mowing 365 acres -- so its lawyer could determine if the lowest bid was legal.
The board received 10 bids. The highest was $197,314 from Frank Otte Nursery. The lowest that specified an amount was George Lynch's $31,552.
But Hap's Aerial Enterprises, which is owned by airport manager Hap Happel, submitted a bid of "$1 lower than the lowest bid," said consulting engineer John Toombs.
Using Lynch's bid and a per-acre formula that involves different rates for different areas of the airport, depending on how far they are from the runway, Toombs evaluated Happel's bid at $30,514.
The bids were sought after members of county government, led by Commissioner Mike Moore, questioned the roughly $50,000 paid to Hap's for mowing last year.
Moore and other county officials have questioned such expenses in recent months, saying they are concerned about the airport's continuing annual losses. Moore has said the airport had a $51,000 operating loss last year, after a $31,000 loss in 2005.
Seeking bids for mowing was an effort to cut expenses.
Happel said that mowing cost so much last year because of unusually heavy rain, and because grass around the airfield must be kept low for safety.
The airport board must determine if the form of Happel's bid is legal. "If not," Toombs said, "put it to the next lowest bid." That would mean giving Lynch the contract.
"I want our attorney to research it," board Chairman Bill Halter said of Happel's bid.
A decision was delayed until the May 10 meeting.
Also yesterday, Halter told the board's lawyer, Bill Smith, to respond quickly to a request from the County Council that the airport board put matching money for federal grants in a separate county fund that the council created Monday for that purpose.
Smith said the council fears some matching money has been used to pay airport operating expenses. The airport board has denied that.
Smith said he believes state law requires the airport board to use one account that is managed by the county treasurer and auditor who have the ultimate local authority over airport board funds.
"The county auditor and the county treasurer will have to take care of that" request from the county council, Smith said.
Reporter Ben Hershberg can be reached at (812) 949-4032.