Saying the Butler County Regional Airport has been a drag on county budgets for years, commissioners expressed their frustration that no business plan has been developed to boost revenues at the facility.
The tentative 2017 budget for the airport, also known as Hogan Field, is $288,844 — a 4.2 percent increase over this year — and includes a $40,497 deficit.
According to a 2014 study, it cost $257,133 to run the airport that year, and revenues came in at $259,843. Revenues last year were only expected to top expenses by $9,277 and did not include the $154,912 debt service payment.
“We’re not sitting here saying cut your budget, cut your budget, cut your budget,” Commissioner Don Dixon said. “We’re saying what can we do to increase usage of that facility. I haven’t heard anything, not one thing have I heard as a suggestion on how to do that. This is the second or third time we’ve been at this table and had this discussion.”
Commissioners last year requested a business plan to increase revenues at the airport. At that time, Dixon told Airport Manager Ron Davis: “…if this thing (the budget) comes back in here looking the same as it does right now, I consider it a failure.”
There was plenty of finger pointing Monday when Dixon wanted to know what happened to that request.
Administrator Charlie Young said the county did not receive a business plan and told the Journal-News that Davis was responsible for completing the task.
But Davis, when asked by the Journal-News about the non-existent plan, said it was the responsibility of his boss, Asset Director Randy Quisenberry.
Quisenberry could not be reached for comment.
Davis told commissioners he has been trying to woo new businesses but plans haven’t materialized.
Two years ago, the county invited other county jurisdictions to tour the airport to gauge interest in possible financial support.
The financial request was later withdrawn.
“What’s sad is we had those meetings with the other government entities. It was unbelievable, all of them had a strong view that the airport was beneficial to them. That the airport is important to economic development..,” Commissioner T.C. Rogers said. “We had them at the trough and then we backed off because we wanted to get our ducks in a row and our ducks are not quacking yet.”
Talks of partnering with the Middletown airport to share costs are no longer open, Young said.
“We are not pursuing joint operations…,” he said. “They have a plan they want to pursue for their airport and they do not see a joint operations as appropriate right now.”
Commissioners also questioned Davis about a new unfinished hangar at the airport. Davis said there were problems with concrete setting and steel delivery, but had no other information about the delay.
“The biggest problem is it’s like you don’t know what you’re doing,” Dixon said. “People are flying in there, looking to invest in there, and they’re going to say, ‘What is this? A foreclosure?‘”