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Borough considering selling municipal airport

March 24, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Chambersburg Borough Council members agree they want out of the airport business as soon as the borough's obligation to the federal government expires at the end of the year.

The borough was required to keep the Chambersburg Municipal Airport open for 20 years after it accepted federal funds for renovations in 1983, Borough Manager Eric Oyer said.

Oyer asked the council Tuesday night for direction on whether staff should begin making preparations for the sale of the airport.

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"If we are to be on track for council eventually getting out of the airport business and selling the property, staff should know that," he said.

In 1989, a consultant determined the airport did not have a viable impact on the area's economic development, largely because of the operations of the Hagerstown Regional Airport, Oyer said.

The airport, which has one runway, is on 95 acres north of Chambersburg in Greene Township. It opened in 1970.

The borough holds five leases at the airport with the Chambersburg Skydiving Center, Mountain Brook Orchards and Brechbill and Helman Construction Co. Those businesses would need to be given notice if the council decides to sell the airport.

"Is there anyone on council who strongly believes we should continue in the airport business," Council President Bill McLaughlin asked at Tuesday's meeting.

His question was met with silence from the nine other council members.

Councilman Bob Wareham, who has served on a smaller airport subcommittee, said the group has tried to find other viable uses for the facility or parties interested in operating it, but nothing has worked out.

"I think council has made a valiant effort to make the airport work. It becomes quite a liability," Councilman John Redding said.

Resident Lynn Rotz, who has worked on the committee with Wareham, said he thinks the airport still could be viable and he doesn't want to see it go.

"I think the airport could have a major impact on the development of the Cumberland Valley Business Park. I realize why the borough wants to get out, but there's a lot of potential there," he said.

Kathie Shepherd, a skydiving instructor and chief financial officer of the Chambersburg Skydiving Center, said her business brings about $1 million to the region annually from residents of Maryland and Virginia who travel to the center. She asked the council for a commitment to only sell the property for continued use as an airport.

McLaughlin said, however, if the borough moves ahead with the sale it would be done through sealed bids, and the highest responsible bidder - whether it was someone who planned to continue airport operations or a subdivision developer - would be selected.

"Legally we can make no pronouncements that whoever buys it must use it as an airport," he said.

The borough has said it plans to use the proceeds from the sale to fund a public works program it began last year.

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