City Council discusses Airport PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 18 November 2009 00:00
    Salem Mayor David Bower estimates that the state has pulled nearly $800,000 in funding from the city's new airport project. That news could be the final nail in the project's coffin.
    Bower didn't go as far to say the project is dead, but he did say that the air board must seek other funding. If no other funding can be obtained, he will recommend that the plug be pulled.
    “Since we've lost funding from the state because of the economic crunch, we are short,” he said. “We are just short of funding. The city council has voted twice not to spend any tax money on the project and I respect that. I agree with that.
    “My position has always been, even before I was swore in as a mayor, I have no issue with a new airport if we can do it without using a penny of local tax dollars.”
    Even if the old airport was sold, funding for the new airport project would be short, according to Bower, somewhere in the ballpark of $300,000 to $400,000.
    “Since we've lost some additional funding from the state and we know now that the sale of the old airport will not cover the expense totally,” he said. “That's why the new air board is looking at some ways to get funding. I think they've done a good job in the last few months. I think they've stepped into a tough situation and we owe them the respect to have some time to find new funding.”
    One of the possibilities is the county. Bower said they will approach county officials to gauge their interest in helping to fund the new airport.
    “We are going to approach (the county) to see if they have any interest in helping us build the airport,” Bower said. “If they don't, then that's another step backwards. We are going to tell the state and the FFA that if they can't come up with the funding we need, we are going to have to take a step back and not complete the project.”
    Bower wouldn't say just how much time the air board will spend look for additional funding opportunities, but he did say they are taking the property owners that would be affected into consideration.
    “(Property owners) lives have been in limbo for six years,” he said. “I do not think that's fair. I think at some point, and I think the new air board will do this, they're going to put this off center where it's been for the last six years and decide whether we need to move forward or we need to basically stop the project completely.
     “I wouldn't want to own a piece of property in that area. You wouldn't even want to go plant a tree. I think it's unfair.”
    The city of Salem has nearly $9 million in debt and has several costly projects they are required to complete on the horizon.
    The top of the priority list, according to Bower, is the water.
    The city is under an agreed order with IDEM to make improvements to Salem's water treatment plant, which could cost more than $1 million.
    Bower also mentioned $400,000 the city paid in interest last year, the bypass project and the East 56 project, which will both require utilities to be moved and the widening of Shelby Street.
    “With all that we are facing we can't take on another $400,000-$800,000 project,” he said of the new airport. “If you add all these things up it becomes obvious we can't afford to do them all. At that point, it's a matter of priorities. I think we have to do all these other things before we get a new airport.”
    Air board member Bob Woodward's outlook for the project is not as bleak. He said the air board has gotten a lot of people involved and he is hopeful there is a resolution.
    “We're trying to embarrass the state in coming back up with the funding and I don't know if we will get it done or not,” Woodward said. “We've got the politicians working on it for us and our engineers are trying to come up with some things also.”
    Woodward estimates the shortfall to be closer to $200,000 due to a a piece of real estate that can be sold for $100,000.
    “The state dropped us from two and one and a quarter,” he said. “If we can get it to two percent, I think we could still get the airport done. (Bower) has contacted senators and legislators and I've contacted the lieutenant governor because it could mean so much to this county, not so much the new airport, but the economic development that could come from the old one. I think that's what the new board has been looking at all along, but we can't have one without the other.
    “We will exhaust all options before we call it off. I hope the people understand that this board and the mayor are trying to do something for them.”
    The city council's next meeting will be Dec. 14.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 November 2009 14:40