Washington County to buy airport hangar, office for $1.76 million

Barbara Miller
Observer Reporter

With a state Bureau of Aviation grant of as much as $1 million and a matching amount from the Local Share Account of gambling revenue from The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, Washington County plans to purchase the hangar and office from Air Charter Service and Business Aviation Center at the county airport.

William McGowen, executive director of the county redevelopment authority, which oversees the airport in North Franklin and South Franklin townships, announced the purchase Wednesday at the county commissioners’ agenda-setting session.

“Are we sure of that grant?” asked Commission Chairman Larry Maggi.

Assured by McGowen that money for the purchase is available from the Bureau of Aviation, the board of commissioners expects to vote on the $1.765 million purchase at its 10 a.m. meeting today.

Scott Fergus, county director of administration, said “if worse comes to worse,” a lease to extract natural gas under the 400-plus-acre airport generated $700,000.

Use of the Local Share Account for the airport was approved last year, with the type of project to be announced. The state Department of Community and Economic Development, which has final say about the use of gambling proceeds for commissioner-approved projects, will be told of the hangar purchase, McGowen said.

The building has 14,400 square feet of hangar space and 8,000 square feet of office space.

McGowen said Air Charter will continue to use part of the hangar and office and provide charter services, but he described the business as currently “downsizing a little bit.” Air Charter had no comment Wednesday afternoon.

The remainder of the building will be marketed to other firms “as well as provide much-needed space for aircraft storage,” according to a news release from the redevelopment authority.

“The county will seek proposals from parties interested in leasing the office/hangar space once the purchase is complete,” the news release continued.

That could be as early as next month, McGowen said, adding that new ownership of the hangar by the airport “will give us more flexibility in marketing the airport and in bringing businesses and airplane operators in to use space in the hangar. … We have people who want that space.”

Although the grant and Local Share money may total more than the purchase price, McGowen said there also are administrative and closing costs.

Washington County Airport handles about 40,000 “operations” per year, meaning landings and takeoffs. The natural gas industry and other Southpointe-based corporations have accounted for increased use of the airport. A 2003 airport study commission report noted about 35,000 yearly operations.