OXFORD – County budget committees have denied funds for the Oxford County Regional Airport for years, and now there’s a financial crisis.

The fuel system has failed, forcing pilots to go to other airports to fill up.

“At the very least it’s inconvenient, and dangerous beyond that,” said Oxford pilot Mark Bancroft, who visits the airport once a week.

Bancroft brought the issue to county commissioners Tuesday, and he suggested that the old system be replaced with a 24-hour credit card system.

He said the pumps haven’t worked for at least two weeks.

The system has an above-ground tank with underground pipes.

“It’s broken to the point where it can’t be repaired because it’s so outdated,” he said.

The county owns the pumps, but Oxford Aviation supplies the gasoline and the attendants.

Officials from Oxford Aviation refused comment on the matter.

Commissioner Steven Merrill said the board is determining how to proceed, and where to find the funding.

The airport brings jobs into the county, Merrill said, and is an important entity.

A new fuel system could cost between $20,000 and $30,000, Merrill said. The technology to put in a credit card system would have the total cost pushing $50,000.

The county budget process works with each department starting with a request. The request is reviewed by commissioners, and then the budget committee. Commissioners vote to enact the budget committee’s recommendation.

Funds for the airport go into the capital reserve fund. The initial request was $25,000 for the airport, an amount seconded by the commissioners. The budget committee, however, slashed it to $15,000.

This was more than what was given to other airports. During the October budget hearings, the Fryeburg Airport requested $10,000 and the Bethel Airport requested $9,256. Neither was awarded a penny.

The county did not fund the Oxford airport at all in 2005 and 2006, according to the county’s budget report.

Airport funding is “a concern that’s been around for a number of years,” Merrill said.