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Airport board continues research

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By Elizabeth Troutman

Oldham County airport board members agree their next task is to collect reliable information related to an airport’s affect on the local economy, namely, if it will bring money to Oldham County. Board members will spend the next two months gathering information and brainstorming ways to obtain an unbiased study on economic impact. The study may be conducted by private firms or university researchers. The five-member board is addressing four additional questions concerning the prospective airport raised by residents and members of fiscal court last fall. Aside from collecting information on the possible economic impact, the board will examine public opinion of an airport, how to share information with the public about an airport, a business and operations plan for the airport and an airport’s impact on property value. Board chairman Jonathan Westbrook said the board is moving away from the Federal Aviation Administration’s process to confront issues that will help direct the board’s decision about a prospective airport. Westbrook believes weighing the project’s economic benefits will lay the foundation for answering the other four questions. “We won’t be able to move forward with this until we’ve identified economic impact,” Westbrook said. The board spent about a year following guidelines of the FAA to determine the feasibility of an airport. At their February meeting, the board abandoned the FAA’s site selection process. Alex Babey, a board member who was assigned to focus on economic impact, said the possible study should observe the way a general aviation airport has impacted economies in communities similar to Oldham County. He also said an economic study should highlight both positive and negative ways general aviation airports affect comparable economies. Board member Bob Sargis encouraged communication with Oldham County Fiscal Court. He thinks the public’s perception of the airport got “off track.” He wants to update residents on the airport board’s conversations via Channel 25. At the end of March, the board plans to update fiscal court on their discussions. “Our new mission is to study this thing under a microscope,” Sargis said. Crestwood resident John Todd said he thinks residents voiced their opinions at the airport board’s Nov. 12 public meeting. He said he is relieved the board ended the site selection process, but he thinks the airport board is wasting time. “They haven’t done anything – there’s no time table set for anything,” Todd said. He wants the airport board to include opportunities for public comment at their meetings. Westbrook said public meetings serve to gather information on public opinion, but the board has no new information to present to the public. He said the board will host more public meetings to gain public input in the future. Yvonne Moore said the board should have discussed topics they are bringing up now before they proceeded with the site selection process last year. “They jumped in when they should have waded in and tested the water,” Moore said. “They are now doing homework they should have done before they got this far.”

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elizabeth@oldhamera.com