The Richmond Register

Local News

January 25, 2014

Airport wants money for plan so it can apply for grants

RICHMOND — Members of the Madison Airport Board at Thursday’s joint government meeting in Berea gave a presentation highlighting proposed expansions they want at the facility.

Board Member George Wyatt used a Powerpoint to break down how the airport’s resources are being used and the cost of each proposed addition.

Combined, the additions would cost more than $5 million.

However, first needs an airport site-development plan, which would include geotechnical surveys to ensure the area is safe for expansion, Wyatt said.

The plan itself would cost between $100,000 and $158,000, said Dr. Wilma Walker, airport board chair.

A plan is necessary if the airport is to be eligible for grants to fund any proposed addition, she added.

Wyatt said the expansion would benefit Madison County several ways:

• It would help expand economic development by acting as a “front door” for larger businesses.

• It would provide hangar space to local pilots to store their aircraft, a request the facility has been unable to fulfill because it is at capacity.

It would also allow for the expansion of Eastern Kentucky University’s aviation program, which has seen explosive growth in recent years and has plans to double, if not triple, its number of students in the next five years.

A large portion of the expansion projects would likely be funded by grants from sources such as the Federal Aviation Administration, Wyatt said.

Completing the plan is time-sensitive, he added. The board has been saving entitlement funds (money it is guaranteed to receive as part of a grant if applied for) for several years to put toward expansion. However, if it does not have a site plan completed until the next fiscal year, $150,000 of their entitled funding will expire.

To receive a grant this fiscal year with the most funding possible, the money for the site plan must be found in about a month, Wyatt said.

Berea City Council Member Diane Kerby asked if EKU would be helping fund the site plan because it is so involved with the airport. Wyatt said the university is likely not going to contribute to the plan, but is trying to procure funding to build its own hangars. And that would help free space for other aircraft.

He also said EKU may be a source of funding for certain projects in the plan, such as a runway expansion.

Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes expressed concern about the airport’s ability to pay back any loan from the local governments. Wyatt said the hangars would be revenue producing, but even if the other projects were not. He also said a 100-by-100 foot hangar would generate about $2,000 a month. Barnes said that gathering $5 million for all the projects would take substantial loan amounts from the governments, and he was concerned about passing the burdens onto the taxpayers.

Judge/Executive Kent Clark said the governments should not feel overwhelmed by the $5 million figure.

“They (the airport board) aren’t looking for the three governments to come up with all of this,” Clark said. “What the key component here is, they need to get started. There’s going to be a big chunk of federal dollars that’s going to come in for this, but they have to have something to go by.”

Berea Mayor Steve Connelly suggested the three local governments consider the funding proposal for the plan on the condition that the airport board submit a detailed plan for the expansion costs so the governments could consider what may be asked of them during their upcoming budget planning cycle.

Walker said the board would gather the information and send it to the governments within 30 days.

Seth Littrell can be reached at slittrell@richmondregister.com or 624-6623.

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