Forty-two million dollars of taxpayer money are being waste on a Tennessee regional airport, according to a new report Wednesday.
Cleveland Regional Jetport made the Beacon Center of Tennessee's top five list for its lounges, fireplace, indoor water feature and other luxury features.
According to the nonprofit's annual Pork Report, the million dollar facility appeals only to corporate clients at the public's expense, but the jetport manager told NewsChannel9's Briona Arradondo that there's more to it than that.
"It was very depressing. It was very old, and in many respects, it was very dilapidated," said Jetport Director of Operations Mark Fidler, about why the jetport replaced the old airport.
At just over a year old, it's a public space that serves private clients, but all the luxury features redefine the mile high club, according to the Beacon Center.
"It's just 30 miles from the Chattanooga airport, so it begs the question of why taxpayers are forced to pay for an airport that the vast majority aren't going to be able to use," said Lindsay Boyd, director of policy at the Beacon Center in Nashville.
Some people who live in Cleveland agree.
"I agree it's a waste of money. If it was like a big airport like in Chattanooga or somewhere where you have a lot of people coming in, it might make a difference," said Rita Holt, a Cleveland resident.
But Fidler said taxpayer dollars didn't directly fund the project.
"There are two things that they need to realize. First of all, this airport is paid for by fuel taxes that are generated from aviation fuel sales," said Fidler. "So, it's paid for by the users in essence."
Fidler also said Tennessee Department of Transportation's Aeronautics Division and federal money from the Federal Aviation Administration paid for the jetport.
Of the jet fuel sold at the facility, 4.5 percent of it goes back to the state and FAA for aviation projects, like the Cleveland building, Fidler said.
With Fortune 500 companies all around town, people like Jim Metzger said it's worth the investment and appeal to big companies.
"I actually used to work for (Merck), and one of the big things was we couldn't get our corporate people here without having to them go to Chattanooga to pick them up," said Metzger, a Bradley County realtor who said he can see how useful the facility is for corporate clients.
Others that made Beacon's list include a Bradley County finance department employee who went online shopping, the attempted TAC Air buyout by the Chattanooga Airport.
Read the Beacon Center's Pork Report.By Briona Arradondo