The Dukes County commission voted to reopen the application process for the three open seats on the airport commission during a meeting Thursday where it was originally scheduled to make the appointments.

The vote was 6-1 in favor, with the only no vote coming from county commissioner Tristan Israel.

The county commission agreed to place advertisements for the position in both Island newspapers on April 5 to accept applications until April 27. Candidates will be interviewed at the next commission meeting on May 2. County commissioners will decide to vote to approve airport commissioners at that meeting or a future meeting.

The vote marks a sharp turn from the decision by the county just over a month ago not to reopen the application process. Much of the criticism from that decision came from county commissioner Robert Zeltzer and incumbent airport commissioner Robert Rosenbaum.

Mr. Zeltzer told the Gazette last month that he thought the county’s previous ads were small, inadequate and failed to reach the most qualified candidates. He said that one candidate for airport commission, retired airport consultant Geoffrey Wheeler, was disregarded because he turned in his application one day late.

The original application process ran from Jan. 11 to Jan. 26, and the county voted 4-2 at their Feb. 7 meeting to not reopen the process.

Mr. Zeltzer called for reconsidering the Feb. 7 vote at the county commission’s next meeting on Feb. 22, but the commission wasn’t able to vote on the measure due to two commissioners, chairman John Alley and Leon Brathwaite, exiting the meeting, leaving the commission without a quorum.

“If you were trying to get the best candidates, wouldn’t you make a little more effort?” said Mr. Rosenbaum at the time.

Mr. Brathwaite initiated discussion on reopening the process at Thursday’s county meeting, though he originally voted against reopening it, saying three qualified candidates had been found through a fair process. A move to reconsider previous votes can only be called for by the prevailing side of a vote, according to county commission rules.

“A lot has happened since that meeting on Feb. 7,” said Mr. Brathwaite. “I would like us to reconsider that vote and re-advertise the positions.”

Rich Michelson, acting chairman of the airport commission, expressed frustration at the county meeting over the county commission’s delaying of appointments, but said he was glad that they chose to reopen the process.

“I think this is important that you’re making this a transparent, professional process,” said Mr. Michelson. “In the meantime this does affect us. It puts us behind a great deal.”

Mr. Michelson explained that though the airport commission could still appoint officers, it would not be fair to new airport commissioners to come in late and not be able to participate in voting for chairman, vice chairman, and other selections.

Mr. Israel disagreed that reopening the process was necessary and argued that the county already has plenty of qualified candidates to choose from.

“We can always run bigger and better ads, but I think we have usually never had a dearth of candidates,” said Mr. Israel. “To me we set a date and it hasn’t been problematic.”

The county commission also agreed that previous applicants would not have to re-submit an application and could go to the county again to explain their qualifications.

In other business, the county expressed frustration that Dukes County Sheriff Robert Ogden terminated a memorandum of understanding between the sheriff’s office and the commission. The memorandum outlined collaboration between the two agencies ranging from the sheriff’s department patrolling state beaches to splitting revenues from alarm company fees for calls coming into the communications center.

County Manager Martina Thornton told the Gazette that the sheriff’s department originally received 15 per cent of alarm fee revenue. She explained that the county sheriff’s department moved from a county to a state agency in 2010, but the memorandum continued.

Last fall, Sheriff Ogden came to the commission requesting more alarm fee revenue for the department. The commission offered to raise the sheriff’s department share of revenue to 20 per cent, but Mr. Ogden was not satisfied and submitted a letter to the commission on Feb. 12 terminating the memorandum.

Commissioners were advised by county counsel that they can no longer collect alarm fee revenue without the memorandum. She said that now the commission will have to amend their budget to make up for the lost funding of roughly $160,000.

“I find the whole thing appalling,” said commission chairman John Alley. “This is an oddly bad way for the sheriff to live in the community, deal with the community and stick it to them.”

“He effectively cut our knees off,” added Mr. Israel.

“Obviously there has to be further conversation with the sheriff,” said Mr. Zeltzer.

Commissioners agreed to set up a stabilization fund of $200,000 from the county unreserved general fund surplus to cover alarm fee revenue losses.

The commission also approved the appointments of commissioner Christine Todd and other recommended applicants to the Dukes County Health Council.

Joseph Sollitto Jr. was re-appointed as clerk of the county commissioners and Robert Hannaman was appointed to Cape Light Compact.