Thursday, September 27, 2012
An airport improvement project in Butler County is gaining altitude.
The Augusta Airport is owned entirely by the city of Augusta, but city leaders there think it's time to form an airport authority and share the cost with Andover.
Augusta Airport has long been a staple on the south side of U.S. 54, handling light aircraft and private planes. Now, Augusta city leaders want Andover to chip in money to get some businesses to locate there.
"They know they're benefiting from it without having to divvy up any money," Augusta City Council member Mike Wallace said. "I think they want to see whether a long-term investment in being equal partners is actually beneficial to them or not."
Augusta City Council members Mike Huddleston and Mike Wallace are hoping city leaders in nearby Andover will join forces and further develop the Augusta Airport. The problem? One small city can't handle the cost on its own.
"To put utilities out there, it would be several million dollars," Huddleston said. "The airport needs adequate sewer. Right now it's on rural water, but it will probably need more water than that system could furnish."
Last month, both city councils met to go over a study report on the feasibility of an industrial park right next to the airport. Huddleston and Wallace want to see aircraft-related businesses or warehouses and office space.
"The biggest hurdle for the city of Andover is how to share or jointly co-own the tax base," Andover Mayor Ben Lawrence said, "which is ultimately what both communities are after."
Another obstacle is the Whitewater River. Because of its location, bringing utilities from Augusta would be much more difficult so Augusta wants utility help from Andover.
"The city of Andover has some obstacles of our own in providing utility services outside of the corporate city limits," Lawrence said. "That airport is currently outside the corporate city limits. Matter of fact, it's in the city limits of Augusta."
One of the solutions that might result in this is to create a new airport authority that will have oversight of the airport. That group would consist of people from both cities. As for a time frame? The Andover mayor says he hopes things can get moving on this project within the next 12 months.