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Commissioners tour new airport building

April 09, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

Washington County Regional Airport officials on Tuesday showed off a new $1 million shell building they plan to use to attract business, and told the Washington County Commissioners that business has, for the most part, taken an upward turn.

Airport Manager Carolyn S. Motz gave the commissioners a tour of the new 21,666-square-foot shell building, the first to be constructed in the airport business park.

Motz said the airport was negotiating with a possible tenant for the building and hopes to encourage additional construction on airport property in the future.

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"By offering businesses attractive options...the airport continues to spur economic growth for the community," Motz said.

The shell building was financed through a low-interest Maryland Industrial Land Act loan. Airport officials expect to pay off the loan with rental funds.

A study of the airport's economic impact shows the airport is responsible for 528 jobs, a figure which will rise as more businesses make use of the airport. Motz said new businesses on or near the airport are prospering.

Airport operations coordinator Brandon Taksa told the County Commissioners that the number of passengers flying USAirways Express has jumped by 12.3 percent - to 17,599 - between January to March of this year compared to the same period in 1996.

USAirways Express freight traffic dropped 2.3 percent to 20,971 tons in the January through March quarter, but that was higher than the airline's freight traffic of three and four years ago.

Motz told the commissioners that the airport's top priority is to add airlines and new routes in the next year.

Also Tuesday, Motz presented the commissioners with an $840,716 operating budget for the next fiscal year that begins July 1. The figure is a 10 percent increase over current spending.

Much of the increase would be offset by revenue from the shell building and higher airport fees, said Motz, who proposed, among other things, raising the fuel fee from 6 cents to 7 cents a gallon.

Douglas Stine, a member of the Airport Commission, asked the commissioners for funding for the airport's fire service. The commissioners now give other fire companies about $40,000 each in direct payments.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the commissioners were considering the request but hadn't made a decision.

The airport has been operating as a self-sufficient unit - airport fees have paid for operating expenses. "We're one of the few county entities that have the ability to take care of themselves," Motz said.

Also planned for the airport:

  • "The Great Hagerstown Air Show" is scheduled for Sept. 6-7.
  • Construction of a Hagerstown Aviation Heritage Museum on airport property bordering U.S. 11. The privately financed museum would include aircraft that had been built in Hagerstown over the years.
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