Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Share of airport bill declined

West Chester Township says it can't afford it

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - West Chester Township, citing a budget crunch, has decided not to contribute $115,000 toward a glide-slope instrument and landing system and lighting at the Butler County Regional Airport - Hogan Field.

"Like everybody else, we're on a tight budget," Trustee Catherine Stoker said. "So we have to prioritize what we spend our money on."

She said Hamilton benefits from the airport far more than West Chester and should contribute "the lion's share" of the cost of improvements. The county-owned airport straddles Hamilton and Fairfield. Stoker and Trustee Jose Alvarez had opposed contributing to improvements, while Trustee Dave Tacosik supported it.

"We've cut back on our spending on our parks, busing and so many other things," Stoker said. "It's my belief that West Chester has contributed enough to the development of the City of Hamilton."

Butler County officials have received commitments from Hamilton and Fairfield for $115,000 each to airport improvements and from Fairfield Township to pay $30,000. The county will contribute $125,000.

Butler County Commissioner Courtney Combs called West Chester's decision "very disappointing."

"This is the first time anybody has broken ranks on funding airport improvements," he said. "With West Chester attracting so many businesses, it's getting more benefit from the airport than anybody. The airport is a solid economic development tool."

Hamilton Councilman Richard Holzberger disputed Stoker's comments about Hamilton.

He said that Hamilton receives some financial benefits from the airport that West Chester doesn't because it's a city.

"She full well knows that," he said. "She chooses to keep West Chester a township so she can keep being a suckling on the county commissioners."

Combs said West Chester's action means the county and possibly the other participating communities will have to shoulder a bigger financial burden for the airport.

The glide-slope - a radio signal that helps approaching planes descend at an appropriate angle on a specific glide path - will permit planes to land in bad weather.

E-mail skemme@enquirer.com

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