The Richmond Register

Local News

July 15, 2014

Beshear OKs $1.1 million for airport

RICHMOND — Madison County and Eastern Kentucky University officials were elated when the legislature earlier this year budgeted $2 million for the Madison Airport.

The university is the contracted fixed-base operator for the airport where it operates a rapidly growing baccalaureate aviation program.

The elation turned to consternation, however, when Gov. Steve Beshear used his line-item veto power to strike the appropriation from the state budget.

The bad news was blunted by assurances from the governor’s staff that airport aid could still be forthcoming. That prospect seemed diminished, however, when state officials recently announced another revenue shortfall.

The skeptics were quieted Tuesday, when Madison Judge/Executive Kent Clark and state Rep. Rita Smart, D-Richmond, called local media to the courthouse where they announced the governor has agreed to provide about $1.1 million in state transportation funds for the airport.

The money will mean that EKU will get a new 100 x 100 foot hangar, estimated to cost $350,000, to house its planes.

The airport apron, where planes are parked, will be expanded, as will the parking lot for automobiles. The airport taxiway surface also will be sealed.

The funding will be received in two annual installments, $600,000 the first year and $500,000 the next year.

The airport apron has no more room to park planes, according to Clark, who said some planes leave passengers at the airport and then fly elsewhere to park.

Clark said he will meet with the airport board for its next monthly meeting Aug. 5 when it will likely authorize its engineer to release a request for bids. With prompt action, the project could be completed by spring, the judge/executive said.

Both Clark and Smart said they lobbied hard for Beshear to provide the funds in the wake of his veto, stressing the airport’s importance for local economic development.

Smart said she visited the governor’s office at least once a week since the veto to push the airport’s case.

She noted that Beshear last year told a Berea audience, “Rep. Rita Smart aggravates me to death” on behalf of Madison County.

In a statement released by Clark and Smart, the governor said, “Maintaining and updating this airport will further encourage economic development in and around Madison County. I’m pleased we were able to work with the state, EKU and local officials to make this project a reality.”

In a statement also released by Clark and Smart, EKU President Michael Benson said, “We are grateful for the state’s support in helping us improve the airport. This endeavor underscores the importance of the university working with our county and local governments on behalf of our citizens.”

The expanded facilities also will benefit the university’s aviation program that is gaining national recognition, Benson noted.

Last week, EKU announced a pilot-training partnership with ExpressJet, which operates the American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express regional airlines.


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