FAA Initiatives At Ohio Airport Compromised Under GOP And DOT Pressure


  Bookmark and Share

FAA Initiatives At Ohio Airport Compromised Under GOP And DOT Pressure

By Mike Mitchell

May 2, 2011 - A new headwind of politicians have emerged in this country that now advocate for big business on the backs of the everyday worker. Politicians speak of balancing budgets, bringing businesses to their communities and creating jobs. It’s a new catchall phrase with an underlining agenda that lacks any critical thinking and fiscal relevance.

This new headwind is now looking to shut down the general aviation airport, which will affect the businesses on those airports such as flight schools, aircraft maintenance, fuel suppliers, etc.

This impact will also threaten the livelihood of many businesses that are located off the airport that do business directly or indirectly with these airports. This move will result in a reverse effect of creating jobs and bringing in new businesses. This initiative will also create a loss of tax revenue which is needed to pay budgets.

Left to right: Joe Hintz, Larry Silcox (center), and Gary Bauer (on far right )

Suppose you are a commissioner in a small county located in Ohio. The county is Huron County and your objectives are fiscal management of county affairs, cut the county budget, bring in new businesses and jobs. So now you want to get down to business, you review the services that the county provides to the cities and towns that make up this county. One of the areas you want to take a look at is the County Airport, the Huron County Airport located in the city of Norwalk which is about 51 miles WSW of Cleveland. In order for you as commissioner, to objectively assess the fiscal state of the airport you will need some information.

Huron County Airport is a non controlled general aviation airport that is county owned and is a public used airport that is located three miles east of Norwalk, Ohio. The airport has an airport authority referred to as the Huron County Airport Authority and it is made up a five member board which is appointed by the Huron County Commissioners. The airport has one asphalt runway with opposing approaches identified as runway 10 and 28 with 25 aircraft based there.

The airport has an annual operating budget of $147,000 with annual generated revenue of $137,000. This means that the county needs to pay the difference of $10,000 a year in order for the airport to balance its budget. The airport land and buildings are valued at $1.5 million. The neighboring businesses generate (impact revenue) about $1.5 million a year from the airport. Throughout the years the FAA has provided grant funding for airport repairs in excess of over a million dollars at this airport. Because of grant funding regulations the airport is unable to sell the airport unless it waits 20 years or reimburses the FAA $980,000.


The property adjacent to the airport is Summit Motorsports Park used for car drag racing and is owned by Bill Bader. The race track has used the airport property on a number of occasions for its own commercial ventures and has a permanent encroachment onto the airport property. In addition the race track would like to shut down the airport for five days in order to use the airport as an egress for its traffic at the raceway. Summit Motorsports Park takes in about $10 million a year for its events and has indicated it wishes to purchase the airport to expand its operation for $1 million.  

So now you have some of the facts. What do you do as a commissioner? Lets us give you some options.

A) Sell the airport.

B) Not sell the airport and look for ways to improve airport revenue sources such as the monies from the speedway.

C) Go with both plans A and B and look at the pros and cons before rendering a decision.

Well in real life the Huron County Commissioners have chosen to go with plan A.  So what does this mean for the county?

1) The county will not have to allocate any money in their budgets to cover the short fall of the airport. Remember we stated the shortfall was $10,000 a year however,  in reality the county only allocated $5,000 in this year’s budget and has refused to turn that money over to the airport.

2) Those businesses that generate over $1.5 million a year form the airports existence will no longer be in business.  Employees will be without work and those businesses will no longer pay county taxes.

3) If the $1 million sale goes through to the race track, the county will have to pay $980,000 back to the FAA and the county would be giving up a property worth $1.5 million. If you do the math there is a net loss to the county of $1,480,000 and the loss of the only county airport.

As a result of the county commissioners' position to sell the airport the “Friends of the Huron County Airport” formed. Their mission is to “Tell The Story” and save the airport. They contacted the FAA and addressed several issues including airport funding, the receipt of federal dollars through the airport grant program, etc.

The FAA sent a representative to the airport to review the issue of airport closure and funding. Upon the conclusion, a letter was sent out March 22, 2011, to the Huron Airport Authority which indicated that if Summit Motorsports Park wanted to use the airport as an egress for five events, the race track should pay for that. The FAA indicated that the raceway should pay the airport $35,790 for the five days of use. Within days of the letter, the county commissioners contacted their representative, who then contacted DOT, who then contacted FAA, and had the rate reduced to $2,000 a day for a total of $10,000 for the five days.

If the county commissioners are advocating that the airport should be self-sufficient, why would they have a problem with the dollar amount suggested by the FAA? The “Friends of the Huron County Airport” (Email) have stated that there is a close relationship between the commissioners and the owner of the race track, "Friends."

Huron County, Ohio incorporates the cities and villages of Bellevue, Greenwich, Norwalk, Monroeville, New London, North Fairfield, Wakeman and Willard. Huron County is governed by three Huron County Commissioners; Gary Bauer (R) Larry Silcox (R) and Joe Hintz (R).

Huron County is also represented by US Senator Rob Portman (R), US Senator Sherrod Brown (D), US Congressman Bob Latta (R), State Senator Gayle Manning (R), State Representative Terry Boose (R) and Governor John Richard Kasich (R).

In a telephone interview Commissioner Larry Silcox stated that the airport continues to draw from the county budget and he would like to see the airport be self-sufficient.  He states the board has continuously requested from the Airport Authority a business plan that would put the airport on the road to independence and not draw from county funds.

Silcox also reported the board does not have any intentions of selling the airport. However, a recorded county commission meeting clearly indicates the commissioners desire to sell the airport and to get rid of the airport authority. Sicox also stated he would not release the county's annual budgeted funds of $5000 for the airport. Silcox declared he does not know what the airport's annual operating cost are nor annual gross revenues it takes in.  
It appears that Silcox may have violated Ohio’s Sunshine Law when he stated he wanted to share an email with Summit Motorsports Park owner Bill Bader. Open Records and Open Meetings laws, collectively known as the “Sunshine Laws,” give Ohioans access to government meetings and records. If there is a meeting between an elected official and another person and it is related to government business, that meeting is to be open to the public.
All elected officials in the state of Ohio, or appropriate designees, are required to attend training approved by the Attorney General once per elected term. The purpose of this training is to ensure that all employees of public offices are appropriately educated about their obligations under the Public Records Act. The training is intended to enhance an official's knowledge of their duty to provide access to public records, and to provide guidance in updating their office's public records policies. Did Silcox advise Bill Bader publicly or privately on how to handle the FAA's proposed $35,790 fee for the use of the airport over five days?

Silcox stated the commissioners were not opposed to the FAA requiring Summit Motorsports Park paying $35,790 for the 5 days of use of the airport. However, in a contradiction, stated they contacted their senator to express their displeasure with the dollar amount being too high.

Silcox states in the March 29, 2011 commissioners meeting that he wants to get rid of Dennis A. Sokol, President of the Airport Authority and the Airport Authority. He states that he would like to give the Airport Authority 30 day to get off the airport. So you ask yourself why?

Under Chapter 308: Airport Authorities section (F) the airport authority has jurisdictional control, possession, and supervision over the airport. In addition, under section (E) may fix, alter, and collect rates and rentals and other charges for the use of airport and airport facilities under its jurisdiction. The authority does have a remedy if it wants to exercise its authority. Under section 308.06 paragraph (A) the authority may sue the county to stop it from interfering with the airports authority.

"The commissioners are dealing exclusively with the raceway owner, making deals prior to contacting the airport board which is suppose to have oversight for all airport operations. The commissioners have and are again trying to pressure and dictate the language of the agreements for the current closure requests. The commissioners then add pressure on the airport board to accept minimal payment for use of the airport facility. Every time the FAA ADO office (Detroit) has tried to work on behalf of the airport, the Commissioners (AND POSSIBLY RACEWAY OWNER) have gone to Washington and used political pressure to make the FAA buckle from their original position", said Dan LeClair president of the 'Friends of the Huron County Airport'.

Under the airports authority, the county commission exceeded its power when it challenged the FAA’s cost assessment of Norwalk Raceway Park and had communications with the Motorsports Park (Bill Bader) as it related to the airport, etc.

In order for airports to receive FAA grant funding, airports must be able to come up with a percentage of their own money. The money that could have been generated from the speedway under the FAA's initial plan could have allowed the airport to receive federal funding which would have allowed needed work that would have improved safety and security at the airport.

Silcox stated he was not a member of the Kiwanis Club nor did he have a beer concession stand at the race park. He further stated he did not think the other commissioners were members of the Kiwanis Club nor had a concession stand at the race track but believed a former commissioner did.

Some of the county residents appear to be supportive of the commission’s position on selling the airport. The underlining reason for support is a lack of understanding, the unwillingness of the commissioners to inform the people of the real cost in selling the airport and  the accrual cost to run the airport versus its generated revenue. Maybe that’s why Silcox reported he did not know how much the airport generated in revenue and its operating cost. This is out of ignorance or deception.

“I’ve mulled it over several times,” said Silcox. “I’ve had calls from constituents and the business community and airplane owners. I’ve gathered a lot of information. Most of the calls I’ve received were overwhelmingly to sell it. Other callers asked why we haven’t sold it (airport) yet? I’m leaning to sell it." (see letter to Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation)
Other News Stories (For the latest news please checkout our home page)


Home Aviation News Aviation Stories Of Interest FAA Exam Upcoming Events Links To Other Sites General Aviation Helicopters Medical Factors Facing Pilots
Maintenance and Aircraft Mechanics Hot Air Balloon Aviation Training Handbooks Read Online Aviation History Legal Issues In Aviation Sea Planes Editorials
 ©AvStop Online Magazine                                                                 Contact Us                                                  Return To News                                          Bookmark and Share


AvStop Aviation News and Resource Online Magazine

Grab this Headline Animator