- Denise G. Callahan Staff Writer
Taking advantage of federal and state funding, county commissioners will make about $2.3 million worth upgrades at the Butler County airport.
Airport Administrator Ron Davis said they have to go out for bids first — the commissioners approved that this week — but they should qualify for a $1.8 million FAA grant to finish reconstructing the ramp that runs along the airport terminal. The state should pick up another five percent, and the county will be on the hook for $100,000.
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“We are having issues with the current asphalt, and we need to bring it up to FAA standards,” Davis said said about the remaining area that is laden with cracks and has wisps of grass peeking through.
Davis said they are also in the running for an Ohio Department of Transportation grant to clear trees and other obstructions at Hogan Field. That project is estimated at $116,000 and the state would cover 95 percent of the cost or $110,200. The county tax budget shows a total of $2.28 million for airport improvements but Davis said these two projects are the main work that will be done.
Earlier this year the commissioners allocated $260,000 in Community Development Block Grant money for fixing the entrance but recently diverted those funds to critical work being done at the county nursing home.
The commissioners for the past several years were disappointed, even angry that the airport has not been self-sustaining. Development Director David Fehr, who is in charge of the airport, said they have taken a number of steps to spruce up the place which should boost revenues, as will the new lease rates the commissioners just approved.
“We’ve had discussions with a couple of folks, they wanted to see what our ground lease rate was going to be before they got into serious negotiations. The commissioners last Monday decided on the ground lease rate so that’s going to help,” he said. “We’ve kind of gotten negotiations up to the point where they probably can seriously consider adding another hangar.”
Fehr budgeted a 16.4 percent hike in lease fees for a total of $44,833 next year. In addition to the new lease structure the county has also changed the automatic lease consumer price index adjustment from five to three years.
Commissioner T.C. Rogers, the liaison for the airport, said the commissioners have not seen the long-term plan to better the bottom line yet, but they will.
“David is on it and we’re in discussions with Ron about how we get one,” he said.