Concerns mount about plane order

RALEIGH The company about to sell the state a $9 million plane until Wednesday says there's a very slim chance it will return the $250,000 deposit.

The $250,000 amounts to about 1 percent of the state's budget, but in this financial crisis, every cent counts.

Governor Mike Easley grounded plans to add another jet to the state's fleet Wednesday, after Eyewitness News got a hold of a purchase order for a $9.1 million jet with after interior and exterior upgrades, including a refreshment center.

A letter was sent Thursday by the governor's office requesting the state cancel the purchase of that jet. It also requests that a $250,000 deposit be refunded, but Eyewitness News has learned that isn't likely.

Cessna Aircraft Company says deposits are rarely --if ever-- refunded.

"They should have been thinking ahead on this before hand and probably should have gotten out of the deal before they were going to lose whatever it is, a quarter of a million dollar deposit," Rob Schofield with NC Policy Watch said.

Schofield says even though Governor Easley scrapped the purchase, that loss of tax-payer money is still a big deal.

"$250,000 would buy health insurance for a lot of uninsured kids, child care for a lot of people," he said.

But Schofield also says citizens of the state usually support the idea of attracting business to the area and that may have been the idea behind this deal.

"Typically what the Department of Commerce would do if they're recruiting another big company to come to North Carolina, they literally fly these guys around," Schofield said. "I would argue that North Carolina would be better off taking all of this money and investing in schools, investing in roads, infrastructure that really makes our community truly attractive to business."

Eyewitness News attempted to speak with Governor Easley about this. Wednesday, he was unavailable for local interviews, even though he later showed up on a cable network talking about the election. Today, we asked again and his staffers never got back to us.

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