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Federal funding to aid Pa. airport

June 02, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

An infusion of federal cash means Chambersburg Airport will have a new owner and the borough of Chambersburg will be able to make some much-needed street improvements, Borough Manager Eric Oyer said.

Pennsylvania's U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum last week announced millions of dollars in funding for 22 airport projects in the state, including $750,000 through the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation for the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority to acquire Chambersburg Airport.

"It couldn't have worked out any better," Oyer said Tuesday. "There's great potential for the development of the airport over the years by SARAA ... This is their specialty," he said of the authority, which owns Harrisburg (Pa.) International Airport and Capital City Airport, also in the Harrisburg area.

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Based on discussions with the airport authority earlier this year, Oyer said the transfer could take place by September.

"Our plan is to keep it open and fully operational as a public airport," said Timothy J. Edwards, the deputy director for aviation at Harrisburg International Airport.

Edwards said the only plans the authority has for the airport at this time are to make repairs to its ramp and 3,300-foot runway and to bring the runway lighting and visual navigational aids up to current standards. Existing businesses at the airport, including Chambersburg Skydiving Center, will not be affected, he said.

Some procedural issues remain to be dealt with before the transfer can occur, Edwards said Tuesday.

Last year, the borough had the 93-acre facility appraised at $790,000, Oyer said. Edwards said the airport authority is conducting its own appraisal and that will be followed by a review appraisal to make sure the two "are well-supported and reflective of the market."

"We were looking for 95 percent participation from the FAA," Edwards said of the funding announced last week by Specter and Santorum.

Located north of the borough in Greene Township, Pa., the airport opened in 1970. Last year, the Borough Council said it would try to sell the airport at the end of 2003.

Talks with the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority began last year and the airport remained open into this year while negotiations for the transfer moved forward.

"We're making steady progress. Eric's time frame is pretty close," Edwards said of Oyer's estimate on the date of transfer.

Edwards said keeping the airport open and functioning is important because re-opening an airport is nearly impossible.

"Once you lose it, they never come back," he said.

Oyer said money from the sale of the airport will be used as part of a $1.1 million street reconstruction and overlay program from 2005-06. The main projects will include improvements to Roland Avenue in the north end, Mill Road in the south end and portions of heavily traveled Fifth Avenue and Grant Street.

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