Huron County Airport
Grant Grounded AOPA Weighs In
By Scott Seitz
September 11, 2011 - Huron County Airport Authority member J.W. Kelley just shook his head from side to side during Tuesday's board meeting.
Kelley couldn't hide his disappointment as earlier in the day, the county commissioners refused to sign a federal grant application that could have brought about $400,000 into the county.
"They (commissioners) are just not very interested or very caring," Kelley said. "They could have at least come out and faced the board."
Kelley said there's not much the board can do now -- "Until we're either off the board or the commissioners lose their jobs," he said.
the grant had been approved, airport officials were
planning to use those funds and possibly future funds
for tree removal, ramp and taxiway improvements and the
eventual moving off the runway so the airport, Summit
Motorsports Park and county could all benefit.
review the plans," said Dennis Sokol, airport board
president. "But for this fiscal year, the timeclock is
over." Mark Haynes Construction, a local firm, would have
been awarded the winning bid for the tree removal and ramp
work if the grant were approved.
"Hopefully, next year, there will be more money to request,"
Sokol said. "Possibly in the several millions." "We're going
up against a wall there," Kelley said. "We're spending a lot
of time putting our feet in the mud."
have to," Sokol told Kelley, adding now that the airport
board has identified the risks and hazards at the airport
and the commissioners have refused to sign the request, the
liability falls to the county.
"That's their right," he said. "Though their reasons are
faulty. ?The irony in this is by not signing the grant
application they are making it harder to sell the airport
because they are not fulfilling the grant obligations,"
Sokol said. "One of the criteria will be, how hard have you
worked to fulfill them in the past." Below is a letter sent
to Huron County Commissioners by AOPA.
The Honorable Gary W. .Bauer The Honorable Joe Hintz
The Honorable Larry J. Silcox Huron County Commissioners 180 Milan Avenue
Norwalk, OH 44857
behalf of the 12,280 Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
members in Ohio and the rest of our more than 400,000
members nationwide we write to express our deep
disappointment that you chose to not sign the airport grant
application before you for Norwalk Huron County Airport.
Despite your decision not to accept these funds that are
critical to the continued safety of operations at the
airport, we trust you understand your continuing
the airport sponsor, you are required by your agreement with
the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to continue to
operate the airport under the current grant assurances and
we expect that you will do that. We are certain that the FAA
expects that too and will be watching closely to ensure such
large part, our disappointment stems from your willful
disregard of tae opportunity to maintain both the airport
and the racing strip. Despite many examples of instances in
which airports and motor sports venues operate compatibly,
and even ignoring the current airport layout and master
plans that show you the path to this compatibility, you
chose to diminish your community by seeking closure of the
airport, and waste the significant public investment made
over many years on this important infrastructure.
unusual these days that a County would turn down an
opportunity to leverage federal, state and private funds at
no cost to them to create local jobs and economic activity.
It is even more striking that this would take place in a
county with one of the highest unemployment rates in Ohio!
Even as you turn down these funds, it is important to
recognize that you have not absolved yourself of the
obligation to maintain and operate the airport. Until such
time as the County receives permission from the FAA to close
the airport and sell the land, it must keep it open and
operating in a safe manner. Now, without this grant, the
County itself will have to find the funds for the necessary
obstruction removal to maintain the safety of the airport
and keep the pavement in good condition for aircraft and
advised in our previous letter, it is a long and arduous
process to close an airport. In the past, you have accepted
funds not just for airport improvements, which created an
obligation that expires after twenty years. You also
accepted funding to purchase land, which creates a perpetual
obligation to keep the airport open. The principal
requirement for gaining permission for the County to close
the airport is to demonstrate how closure will create a
benefit to civil aviation by closing down the Norwalk Huron
County Airport. To do so, you must petition the FAA's
Associate Administrator for Airports and you must provide
detailed justification. We note that it is extremely rare
for the FAA to actually close an airport that has received
federal funding, on the other side, you will have AOPA and
the entire aviation community opposing your petition.
You have chosen a difficult path, and it is unlikely that you will receive permission to close the airport at all, and certainly not in the near future. We hope you will pause from this action, and reconsider your decision. Should you do so, we stand ready to go with you to the FAA to seek approval of your grant application.
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