Each side said they don't want to be enemies, but they certainly didn't act that way at times.
Tensions were running high at Tuesday's county commissioners' meeting as advocates for the Huron County Airport dominated the public comments for about 45 minutes.
Daniel LeClair, the president of the Friends of Huron County Airport, said he and Huron County Commissioner Larry Silcox had a "spirited discussion" about the fate of the airport during a private meeting Monday. LeClair told the commissioners Tuesday he wanted their assurance they would sign an application for $600,000 grant that would generate $30,000 for the airport.
LeClair, who said his non-profit organization represents more than 70 people with and without airport affiliations as well as farmers and business employees, said many businessmen told him they would jump at the opportunity that requires 5 percent but gets 95 cents on every dollar.
The money from an entitlement fund comes from fuel sales tax, airway bills and ticket taxes.
Commissioner Gary Bauer asked LeClair if he were asking the board to spend $22,000 to support the Friends of Huron County Airport. LeClair responded by saying his request was the equivalent of "investing in the community."
Bauer said the pending county budget is "extremely tight" and that the $22,000 isn't included now. If it were, he said it would mean taking money away from other county entities.
The commissioner also told LeClair he wanted to know how the airport would use the grant money. While LeClair didn't answer directly, he said: "I believe there is a master plan."
"I'll take that answer as you (either) don't know or don't care to tell me," said Bauer, who also said the airport needs to be specific with their plans.
Huron County Airport Authority Board President Dennis Sokol, in response to Bauer, said there is a specific list of projects. The airport first needs to address "immediate needs," Sokol said, which would include "safety risks," such as trees that obstruct pilots from landing at night and seal-coating the pavement.
Silcox, the commission president, said he was upset because it sounded as if LeClair was threatening the commissioners if there were no assurances about the grant. Silcox also mentioned that the tone of LeClair's presentation Tuesday wasn't the same as their private meeting Monday.
"This is not working together," Silcox said.
LeClair often spoke over the commissioners as they presented questions or responses. At the end of the lengthy, heated discussion, which also involved Sokol, LeClair accused the commissioners of treating him like their son and of dispensing "false information" and half-truths.
The airport was created in 1966.
Silcox, who started working for the county in the early 1970s, said there have been many times that airport officials have come to the county requesting matching funds to be self-sufficient and become the economic development tool it was promised to be. However, he said he hadn't seen either of those things happen in about 40 years.
In the past, Silcox said the county has granted matching funds to the airport, but the present situation has changed. Ultimately, he said he needs to look at what's in the best interest of the county before making any decisions.
"That's where my ultimate decision must be," Silcox said. "I want to have all the information I can have as we move forward."
Newly-elected Commissioner Joe Hintz addressed Sokol and LeClair after his fellow commissioners spoke.
"There's a tone on the airport that really bothers me; it's a negative tone," Hintz told them.
Hintz said he's heard it's easier to lead a horse with a carrot rather than a buggy whip. When it comes to the airport's perspective, he said he's heard too much of the buggy whip approach -- both when Hintz was studying the situation as an election candidate and now as a commissioner.
"I'll take a public stand. I'm in favor of the drag strip," Hintz said, referring to Summit Motorsports Park. "I'm in favor of closing down the airport."
Hintz said he's not in favor of losing Summit to another location because it would be "disastrous to the county." He also stressed to Sokol and LeClair "I'm not at war with you guys" and like Silcox, he needs to make decisions based on what's best for Huron County.
Sokol, while saying it's important to argue one's position as logically as possible, said if the county closes the airport, "it will go into federal court."