BY STEVE KEMME
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FAIRFIELD - City officials have decided to stop contributing money to the Hamilton-Fairfield Airport and to withdraw from the airport's governing board.
Fairfield City Council, which has been bearing one-third of the airport's costs, believes the airport has done very little for the city's economic health.
Over the past 10 years, Fairfield has contributed $1.5 million to $2 million to the airport, which straddles the Hamilton-Fairfield border. But the airport has spurred very little commercial and industrial development in Fairfield, said Fairfield Councilman Mark Scharringhausen.
"I don't see it as being a contributor to our development," he said. "It's just an investment we can't continue to make." Faced with the possibility of having to pay $250,000 toward the construction of a new airport terminal, Fairfield officials decided to bail out now.
"We have many other projects we felt we would be better off spending our money on," Mr. Scharringhausen said.
The city would rather spend its money on such items as the city's downtown, the Symmes Road extension and expanded police, fire and paramedic services than the airport, he said.
At the end of this year, the airport will vacate its three seats on the nine-member Butler County Airport Authority, which operates the airport.
After Fairfield's withdrawal, the airport authority will consist of three Butler County representatives and three Hamilton representatives.
The costs for airport improvements will be split equally between Butler County and Hamilton.
Fairfield's withdrawal will have little financial impact on Butler County and Hamilton, said Doug Hammon, airport administrator. The airport authority already has secured almost all the federal funds needed for planned airport improvements, he said.
"Fairfield's been an important part of the airport authority," said Hamilton Councilman Fred Southard, a former member of the airport authority.
"I'm certainly disappointed they have chosen to withdraw," he said. "I am very appreciative of all their contributions in the past."
Besides the size of their financial contribution, Fairfield officials also objected to the size of the airport authority.
Fairfield would be willing to consider remaining a part of the airport authority if more communities were asked to sponsor the airport, he said.