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Pilot group to study viability of Chambersburg airport

March 26, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - An independent group of pilots plans to study the future viability of the Chambersburg Municipal Airport, while the borough council voted to move ahead with the disposal of the 40-year-old facility Tuesday.

About a dozen area pilots and others with a stake in the airport just north of Chambersburg asked the council to carefully consider its decision to get out of the airport business.

"Allow us to gather updated information on the viability of the airport," said Kathie Shepherd, a skydiving instructor and chief financial officer of the Chambersburg Skydiving Center at the 95-acre airport. "This will assist the borough in making a decision based on information gathered currently in today's market condition as opposed to making decisions based on old data."

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A 1989 consultant's study determined the airport did not have a viable impact on the area's economic development. Since then, the borough has kept the airport open to fulfill its obligation to the federal government after it borrowed funds for a renovation in 1983.

That agreement expires at the end of the year, and council members voted 7-3 Tuesday to proceed with preparations for the airport's sale by sealed bid at the end of the year. If the airport is sold, there is a possibility it could be developed.

"We have no problem with aircraft owners proceeding on a different track. The Borough of Chambersburg will not get involved in any grant-seeking that will commit the borough to ownership indefinitely in the future," Council President Bill McLaughlin said.

But he said nothing is a done deal.

"You've got eight months. Bring us something that can change our minds," McLaughlin said.

Councilman Bob Wareham, who has served on an airport committee for several years, said efforts to involve other entities in the past stalled.

"I don't think any of us are against it staying as an airport. But this body doesn't want it anymore," Wareham said.

Some community members were critical of the council for not taking a more active interest in developing the airport.

"Development hasn't happened because no one has taken the bull by the horns and made it happen," said Dr. Lawrence Rogina, a Waynesboro, Pa., resident, physician and pilot.

Several council members said they would be willing to work with those interested in coming up with a business plan for the airport.

"I'm open-minded about seeing what this study would present. I would love to see it continue as an airport," Councilman Carl Helman said.

"There are things we've let slip away in this county. I'd like an updated outlook before we let the airport slip away," Councilman Allen Coffman said.

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