VIENNA - The Western Reserve Port Authority has back peddled on a 10 percent bonus it awarded its aviation director at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
The board Wednesday voted to rescind the $7,500 payment to Dan Dickten, who last month offered to not accept the bonus after it generated some controversy and factored in a decision by commissioners in Trumbull County to roll back a portion of the funding they provide to the port authority.
The vote was one of a couple notable board votes that also include hiring an attorney who specializes in gas and oil well drilling to represent the port authority on drilling on airport property in Vienna.
Port authority board Chairman Scott Lynn said rescinding Dickten's bonus was ''strictly a board decision'' and ''we felt like it was something we needed to do.''
Dickten declined to comment.
Commissioners, saying Dickten's bonus sent a bad message especially when county workers have had their wages frozen, in July rolled back a 1 percent ''bed tax'' they approved in December and specifically set aside for the port authority.
The Western Reserve Port Authority finally green lit a study about bringing a railroad spur to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
The board that runs the airport agreed Wednesday to hire Silverlode of Cleveland to do the work, and a feasibility study that also includes examining existing and new gas pipelines.
The port authority will pay for two-thirds of the $29,500 study and the Trumbull County Engineer's Office, one-third.
The effort on the port authority's part, members say, could put it in better position to serve the gas and oil well industry. The engineer's office is interested in the project because gas pipeline would lessen the heavy truck traffic on county roads.
The rollback isn't effective until October.
The bed tax, a tax on hotels and motels, is provided to the port from Trumbull and Mahoning counties. It accounts for a large portion of the port authority's budget.
Commissioner Paul Heltzel said the board granting the bonus ''was really what kicked off'' the decision to cut back the bed tax, but also at issue is a disparity between the percent contributed by Trumbull County and Mahoning County.
When commissioners upped the bed tax percent in 2010 it took Trumbull to the maximum 5 percent allowable under Ohio law and raised the dedicated amount to the port authority from 2 percent to 3 percent. The rest is given to the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau.
In Mahoning County, the tax is 3 percent, split between the port and the Mahoning County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
''No one is really focusing on the fairness of that,'' Heltzel said.
Heltzel said the move also is an attempt to prod Mahoning to increase the percent they contribute.
But leaders in Mahoning County argue that the issue boils down to dollars vs. percent. Because Mahoning County has more motels it contributes more, officials say.
In 2011, Trumbull County provided $341,000 to the port. Mahoning County contributed $503,154 over the same period.
The additional 1 percent from Trumbull County accounted for $161,000 for the port since it was put into place.
Also Wednesday, the port authority agreed to hire Alan Wenger of Harrington, Hoppe and Mitchell to represent the board in gas and oil drilling-related activity on airport property. The agreement is for $12,000.
Lynn said the port has been contacted by ''over 10 different types of drilling companies'' and they decided on the firm because of its expertise in the area.
The port authority controls about 1,400 acres, a portion of which includes the airport. Lynn said about 1,100 could be available for drilling.