OZARK—Discussion surrounding a standalone aviation campus in Ozark was revived by an Ozark city councilman early Monday during discussion about the upcoming general and education fund budgets up for votes this week.
But legislators said a decision on such an endeavor could come much later, while efforts continue to bring more aviation-related industries into the state.
Alabama House Reps. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, and Alan Boothe, R-Troy, met with residents at the Ozark Area Chamber of Commerce on Monday during a quarterly legislative update meeting.
Clouse said the legislative session is expected to end May 20. He said he was hopeful both a general fund budget and education fund budget would be passed in the House this week.
He said the proposed general fund budget includes about a $20 million increase for the state’s prisons and allotted funds for Medicaid, which Clouse said makes up about 35 percent of the general fund.
Clouse said he hoped a provision passed in the Senate for a payback of the trust fund from what was borrowed after a state vote Sept. 18 would remain.
Concerning the education fund, Clouse said the proposed budget includes a 2-percent raise for educators for the first time in several years. Liability insurance for teachers and support personnel, similar to what state employees receive, is also proposed.
Ozark councilman Winston Jackson asked if legislators would ever reconsider a plan to separate the Alabama Aviation Center from Enterprise State Community College in order to make a standalone aviation campus as it was several decades ago.
He said now would be the opportune time to do so, as the aviation industry was thriving in the state and particularly within the southeastern region.
Clouse said the plan to have a standalone aviation campus was among others that shifted amid the recession with no definite time of when it would be considered again, although he said discussions on creating a standalone campus have still taken place.
Clouse said initial plans to recreate a standalone aviation school came after a plan for community college consolidation around the state that didn’t work.
Boothe said he supported a standalone campus.
“When you create another entity in the education trust fund it creates resistance, but it’s a goal I will certainly support,” Boothe said.
“With a push for Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin and others I see tremendous growth potential for that campus, and I think it’s a prime time with Airbus coming to Mobile and (Commercial Jet in Dothan).”
Clouse said there were other issues expected to be brought up in session this week, including a bill that allows one to make up to 15 gallons of home brew a month if they live in a wet county.
Legislation relating to Medicaid and hospitals could also warrant discussion, he said.
Clouse praised local efforts to bring Commercial Jet to Dothan, as well as acknowledged Ozark City Schools Superintendent Mike Lenhart for his role in the construction of a new Carroll High School.