Thursday, March 01, 2001

Cincinnati wants $30 million for strip

Dueling bids on table

By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BLUE ASH — A concerted effort to broker the sale of the Cincinnati-owned Blue Ash Airport to the city for which it is named will be launched soon as teams from both cities sit down for an expected two months of discussions.

        Officials from both communities have expressed optimism that a deal can be reached, despite a wide disparity over estimates of the value of the 226-acre site, which is south of Glendale-Milford Road between Plainfield Road and Reed Hartman Highway.

[photo] Don Walker of Sycamore Township pilots his 1973 Piper Cherokee 180 over Tricounty. The retired physician keeps his plane at Blue Ash Airport, which he hopes Blue Ash will buy and keep in business.
(Glenn Hartong photos)
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        “The main sticking point is that Cincinnati has expressed interest in selling it for $30 million, and our last offer was $17 million,” said Blue Ash Mayor Jim Sumner.

        Should Blue Ash acquire the airport, it would retain the strip on 100 acres, make it safer and more attractive, and would develop the unused areas for other purposes — a park along Plainfield Road and offices along Reed Hartman.

        Cincinnati City Councilman Pat DeWine, who strongly favors selling the airport, said he is “cautiously optimistic” a deal can be realized.

        Tuesday, Cincinnati officials named a team to review the airport and its development plan and to discuss possible sale to Blue Ash. The negotiating committee for Blue Ash is prepared to begin talks. Both groups are to report findings to their respective city councils in early May.

        Mr. Sumner said Blue Ash has been trying to acquire the airport since 1987. But talks never reached face-to-face negotiations. Mr. Sumner said he suggested the format as a means of addressing all issues on both sides.

[photo] Pilots Mike Wagers (left) of Hamilton and Doyle Casteel of Union Township, Clermont County, prepare their planes for flights at Blue Ash Airport.

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        “We need to air our differences ... to establish any progress and get serious,” he said.

        Cincinnati balked when Blue Ash offered $17 million three years ago, but did not make a formal counterproposal, Blue Ash City Manager Marvin Thompson said.

        Last October, a $20 million price tag was suggested during a Cincinnati council meeting, and Blue Ash showed immediate interest in the figure as a starting point, Mr. Thompson said.

        But Cincinnati officials have since increased their sale price to $30 million, he said.

        Mr. DeWine said Cincinnati has no real interest in keeping the airport, and the city could use the proceeds for other needs.

        A recent change in federal law, which had prohibited depositing proceeds from the sale of the airport into an investment account, now would allow Cincinnati to use the money for any purpose, as long as the airport is sold to Blue Ash and the airstrip is maintained, officials said.

        Elizabeth Isham Cory, spokeswoman for the FAA's Airport Division, Great Lakes Region, in Chicago, said the FAA would not want to see Blue Ash Airport eliminated.

        “It is a very important reliever airport for that region and, therefore, to national air space,” Ms. Cory said.

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