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Head of struggling Illinois airport gets raise

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News,Business

MASCOUTAH, Ill. (AP) — The director of a southwestern Illinois airport that has never turned a profit since opening with great fanfare 16 years ago has gotten a pay raise as well as a bonus of more than $13,000, according to a newspaper report.

Tim Cantwell, who oversees MidAmerica St. Louis Airport near Mascoutah east of St. Louis, last year got a nearly 5 percent pay increase, pushing his yearly income to roughly $128,000, the Belleville News-Democrat reported (http://bit.ly/1jtH5qE) Wednesday.

Cantwell got his bonus in January for meeting unspecified goals, the newspaper said details it obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show.

St. Clair County owns the airport, with Cantwell managing 14 employees and the airport's $5.5 million budget.

MidAmerica has struggled since opening in 1998, and critics persistently have labeled it a $330 million boondoggle.

A message left Wednesday for Cantwell by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.

The county board's chairman, Democrat Mark Kern, defended Cantwell's salary jump and bonus, saying he is committed to his work and has been instrumental in luring a passenger airline and international cargo business to the airport.

Kern said the Illinois State Police and the Illinois National Guard have moved onto the airport, accounting for more than $9 million of infrastructure and 120 jobs.

"All of these things have since been achieved under (Cantwell's) leadership and guidance," Kern said.

But St. Clair County Board member Nick Miller — a Lebanon Republican long critical of Cantwell's performance — countered that Cantwell should be fired, given the airport's continued losses. MidAmerica has a projected deficit of $1.4 million this year, and audits show the county has subsidized airport operations more than $28.7 million in the past five years.

"Where else but St. Clair County and MidAmerica Airport can a guy get rewarded so well for failing so badly?" Miller said. "And for what? Making sure MidAmerica only loses $1.4 million this year instead of the multiple millions it's lost in years past under his watch?"

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Information from: Belleville News-Democrat, http://www.bnd.com

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