Airport Sees Increase In Traffic

NEW KNOXVILLE — The shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which has halted construction projects across the nation, is having little impact on a local airport.

On Tuesday, the FAA shutdown forced the entity to furlough 4,000 workers and suspend $2.5 billion in airport construction linked to federal grants. While the Neil Armstrong Airport in New Knoxville receives federal grants from the FAA, the shutdown is not currently impacting the facility.

“Right now, it hasn’t affected us too much since we don’t have any active projects going on,” Airport Manager Sean Stroh told The Evening Leader. “It’s really a matter of long-term planning. The big thing we are waiting on is the reauthorization bill so we can look at it from a federal level.”

A major project the Auglaize County Airport Authority is planning for is the construction of a new terminal building at the airport. To help fund the project, the authority plans to seek a federal grant that typically includes a 95 percent federal match and a 5 percent local match.

“There have been a few different proposals and some of the percentages may change,” Stroh said. “What we are doing is waiting and seeing on how those percentages are going to come out.”

With the design of the building completed, officials are in the process of designing utilities for the project. Plans call for the extension of water and sewer lines from the village to the airport.

“We currently have a grant application with the FAA for the funding for the design of the utilities,” Stroh said. “But we are not looking for that grant to go through until mid-month or so, and then work on the design for utilities would be sometime this fall.”

Completion of the $1.2 million terminal building is estimated to be finished in the fall of 2014 or early 2015. Once built, the building would help the facility better serve its customers.

“The majority of traffic is business and corporate-related traffic and our current building just doesn’t have the amenities that are required from the business community,” Stroh said. “With the new building, we hope to have meeting space so that when travelers come to the area, they don’t have to leave the facility. We can have meeting space allocated for that.”

Other upgrades include making the building more ADA compliant as well as giving visitors a good first impression, Stroh noted.

“We want to put that fresh look on the building that allows us to give the best impression for people who come to Auglaize County,” Stroh said. “If coming by air, it will be the first impression you have on how Auglaize County does business and it puts our best foot forward.”

Traffic the past three months has spiked at the facility. Stroh said July was the best month in terms of fuel sales since 2007.

“It’s been wonderful,” Stroh said. “We are starting to see it pick up and hopefully it’s sustainable, but with the current economic climate, that could change tomorrow. We are hopeful from what we are seeing that we should stay busy this summer. A lot of new corporations are coming in.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this story.