Airport being maintained while plans continue for the new facility PDF Print E-mail

In hopes of bringing jobs to Washington County and improving the lives of residents, the Board of Aviation Commissioners continues to make improvements to the Salem Municipal Airport.
Lowell DePoy, a contracted manager of the airport, gave a report at the city council meeting last Monday, stating many of the improvements that have been made at the facility. DePoy said he does as much maintenance as he can around the facility by himself, trying to save the airport money. Some of the improvements made include cleaning up hanger spaces, reattaching and securing the metal roof, fixing smoke detectors, cleaning offices, installing and painting window trim in all the offices, making the restrooms clean and operational, replacing the flag and furnace filters.
The airport also has a refrigerator, microwave, coffee pot and a television so those who fly in and out have a place to grab a snack, a cup of coffee or to just relax.
DePoy had more than 40 improvements that have been made in the past year and has more on his list to do, including holding an open house for the public, bringing back aviation days and aggressively renting more hangers and office space.
Bob Woodward, who is the current vice president of the aviation board, said the airport is currently self sufficient and he sees no reason why it can’t remain that way, even after the new airport is built.
When the new board was put in place under Mayor David Bower, Woodward said the goal was to bring more jobs to Washington County. In order to do this, the group secured a grant through the FAA, which required the airport to come up with a 5% match.
“The grant is specifically for the airport,” said Woodward. “If we didn’t get it, it would go to someone else. My thought is that putting $20,000,000 into the community couldn’t hurt.”
The FAA will put up 95% of the grant, and the Indiana Department of Transportation has agreed to fund 2.5% of the 5% the airport’s 5% requirement.
Woodward said the county stepped up and agreed to fund $225,000 for the airport.
“They used economic development money and I believe this is economic development,” said Woodward.
After all the land is purchased for the new airport, there will be approximately 300 acres, with 15 available for a tech park. Land is already being leased out to farmers for crops, which is helping with some of the airport’s income. Other sources of income include hanger rental and fuel sales.
“We are pretty self-sufficient right now,” said Woodward. “People were worried we could not support a new airport, but I think we will be able to do it.”
He said they have a couple of businesses interested in locating at the tech center, which is just empty land at the moment.
He said businesses will be responsible for building their own facilities. He said they will have to accommodate FAA restrictions, which will include a restriction on the height of the buildings.
“The companies wanting to locate here have to be approved by the board,” said Woodward. “If they are not beneficial to the county, we won’t let them build at the site.”
While the long-range goal is to have a 5,000 foot runway at the new airport, Woodward said they are going to first build a 3,000 foot runway so they can get the new facility up and going so the old airport can be sold. Eventually they will add onto the runway to make it 5,000.
Woodward explained that large companies, like Kimball’s, need the longer runways to accommodate the large planes.
“We have lost businesses in Washington County due to the runway being short,” he said.
Woodward said he is not sure when the new airport will begin construction. He said the money is in the hands of the FAA and they are waiting on funds from the federal government.
In the meantime, Woodward and DePoy said the old airport is being maintained and seeing a lot of plane activity.
Woodward said the mayor has been in support of the board since day one.
“He said if we can do it without using taxpayer money, we have his support,” he said. “And we have worked hard to get that done.”
There are currently five members on the board of aviation: Woodward, Mark Dewees, Jason Cockerill, Danny Habbermill and Ronnie Floyd. The board meets the third Wednesday of every month beginning at 7 p.m.