Local airports on final approach for state funding

The three publicly owned airports in Butler County — Butler County Regional Airport, Middletown Regional Airport and Miami University Airport — generate an economic impact of more than $63.7 million to the area, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation. The three airports generate more than $20.2 million in payroll and provide 611 jobs related to aviation activity.

The Butler County Regional Airport will receive 95 percent of the estimated $116,993 cost for rehabilitation work at the facility through a state grant, which will help continue its effort to make the airport self-supporting.

There have been times in the past when the county airport had to pass on some grants because the matching local funds weren’t available, according to Ron Davis, Butler County airport director.

Now, County Administrator Charles Young said there is a commitment from commissioners for the local matching funds.

“We’re focused on our airport and its future development,” Young said. “We’re working for the betterment of the tenants and local businesses and we’re working on all aspects of operations at the airport.”

While safety is the highest priority, Young said other concerns related to the airport’s functionality and the needs of businesses using it are being addressed.

“We’re not satisfied with business as usual at the airport,” he said. “We’re looking for continuous improvement on all aspects of how it operates and its financial position. We expect it to be self-supporting. We’re not there yet, but we’re making tremendous progress. We have more work to do and we’re addressing that.”

The county is reviewing five bids ranging from $81,500 to $98,000 to rehab runway area lights.

Once the bid is awarded, a resolution will go to the Butler County Commissioners that will be forwarded for final state approval to release the funds, Davis said.

“We anticipate receiving this grant,” he said.

While Middletown Regional Airport/Hook Field’s three proposed projects totalling $1.04 million didn’t make the initial cut, they may end up receiving state funding after other communities were unable to provide the 5 percent local match.

Middletown officials said they have the local funding match ready.

“The opportunity to rehabilitate the pavement of these areas of the airfield is tremendous,” said Matt Eisenbraun, Middletown’s assistant economic development director. “We have been working with our state and federal partners to maintain what we have, but it had really come to the end of its useful life in the last few years. We began our efforts two years ago and when an opportunity to get this work done with federal dollars was postponed, ODOT was able to step in and fill the need.”

Middletown is seeking the funding for resurfacing of the airport’s taxi-ways and ramps as mandated by FAA regulations.

The project has qualified for state funding that will provide 95 percent of the related construction costs up to a maximum of $1,045,256, according to Eisenbraun.

Middletown City Council is slated to approve the city’s $166,668 local match at its June 7 meeting.

“Two years ago, council made the decision to continue to build up our Airport Capital Fund so that when a grant opportunity came along to do this major project we would be prepared – we are prepared and got the chance at this because we have the local match dollars in the savings account ready to go,” Eisenbraun said. “Council’s wisdom created the opportunity and I believe they will capitalize on the chance to make the airport as fundamentally sound as possible.”

Eisenbraun said these state grants will cover about 60 percent of the items on the airport’s our maintenance list from 2015.

“We will now be able to look at investing in enhancements and upgrades with the funds the FAA regularly distribute to us and it will be much easier to support the opening of the western areas of the airport near Hook Business Park and focus on to the largest development opportunities,” he said. “The goals of our new master plan can focus even more on the future development.”

Eisenbraun said the airport is a tremendous asset for Middletown but its basic infrastructure needs to be maintained.

“If we take care of what we have, it’s much easier to get investors and businesses to come and grow,” he said. “An airport’s life blood is the runways and paved areas and this helps us show we understand that key factor and are ready to take on more business.”

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