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6/30/2017 - Public Hearing on Proposed Airport Expansion
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In a packed Greensburg City Hall Gym filled with emotion, a public hearing on the Environmental Assessment for the proposed Greensburg Airport Expansion Project took place Thursday evening. It was clear that the main points for those in attendance were "want versus need", projected economic development, the impact on landowners, residents getting a clear picture of the project cost, and what tax burden would result for residents. Numerous concerns were raised that residents were not adequately kept informed about the project since the public hearing in 2012.
Paul Shaffer, Vice President of Airport Development for BF&S, addressed the alternatives that were considered as part of the project. Mr. Shaffer stated that the airport runway has deficiencies based on FAA design standards. Five alternatives were initially part of the study and, after evaluation, replacing and realigning the runway is the recommended alternative going forward to the FAA with the environmental assessment. Board of Aviation Commissioners Vice President Jon Dooley explained the funding plan for the project. He stressed that the local share for the project would be 5 percent of the total cost, with 90 percent paid by the FAA Airport and Airway Trust Fund, with the remaining 5 percent paid by a state program similar to the FAA.
State Representative Randy Frye expressed support for the project. He asked that we, as a community, look forward to future needs and to consider economic development. Glenn Tebbe, speaking for Mayor Dan Manus, gave full support to the project for present and future companies and industries. He further stated the project would enhance safety at the airport. President of the Chamber of Commerce Susan Burkhart and Vice President of the Economic Development Corporation Marc Coplon voiced the full support of their organizations for the project, pointing out the potential for millions of dollars in growth and development. Mr. Coplon read into the record letters of support from Representative Luke Messer, State Senator Chip Perfect, former Greensburg Mayor Gary Bailey, Valeo, and Honda. Mr. Coplon stated that the project would help support the supply chain, which is restricted to only light loads with the limited runway currently in place. He also read a letter from Mainsource Bank which touched on the future of the community. A resident expressed support, asking everyone to consider the negative perception of the Interstate Highway system in its infancy. He also talked about the proposal many years ago to start removing railroad lines in Greensburg when the lines were one of the positive factors that attracted Honda to the area.
Numerous residents provided their input for the record. A resident expressed concern over the effect of water runoff when more land is covered in asphalt and concrete when crops are already under water. He further questioned the stated safety enhancements, asking if the Greensburg Fire Department has the necessary equipment or trained personnel to handle potential accidents. A second resident asked for further clarification of who would be paying the 5 percent, along with an actual dollar amount that would need to be paid. She felt that the project was for airplane enthusiasts at the expense of 50 direct landowners, creating devalued property. A third resident raised the point that the airport is said to be self-supported, but is still listed as part of the city budget, actually increasing from about $60,000 in 2012 to around $80,000 in the most recent budget. One resident stated that he knew of none of the landowners willing to give up land for what he described as "hobby pilots." A letter was entered in the record from a resident who questioned why this has not been proven to be critical in the 12 years since the proposed project began. He expressed concern that his family farm could be taken under eminent domain, property his family has owned since 1850 and has been recognized by the state on several occasions. Another resident asked for factual statistics to back up the claim of need, along with the additional funding that would be required to maintain the airport when it would grow from 32 acres to 200 acres. A resident provided statistics from the FAA and Census Bureau regarding the economic impact of similar projects. The report she quoted stated that "it basically showed that these 45 areas didn't show a marked improvement in employment or income in 8 years after they built or expanded an airport." The resident further quoted a report which states that "FAA safety requirements could be met at the current facility with an extremely small amount of farm ground as compared to the current project and should only be done if required by the FAA."
The public can submit written comments until July 10th for inclusion in the final report. Comments can be sent to Paul Shaffer with BF&S at 8450 Westfield Blvd, Suite 300 Indianapolis, Indiana 46240. Comments can also be emailed to pshaffer@BFSEngr.com or faxed to 317-713-4616.
Tom Flemming-WTRE News
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