GREENSBURG – Greensburg Mayor Gary Herbert said he would push hard this year to make progress on economic development initiatives, especially the $9.9 million construction of Veteran’s Way and the $16 million expansion of the Greensburg Municipal Airport.
Herbert said Thursday afternoon that his goals for 2014 relate primarily to helping existing businesses, attracting new business, expanding the tax base and bringing new jobs to the community.
The airport expansion, which would include expanding the runway to 5,405 feet, up from 3,600 feet today, would give local businesses better options for shipping their products and receiving raw materials, he said. It also would support more passenger planes.
“We want to give industry and other businesses opportunities with an expanded airport,” Herbert said.
The airport would pay about 7.5 percent of the project’s $16 million price tag (or $1.2 million), with the state kicking in 2.5 percent ($400,000), and the federal government providing the bulk of the cost ($14.4 million). The airport would pay for its portion through money it has gained through airport operations, including fuel sales and hangar rentals.
Herbert said that some hurdles remain, including a federal environmental impact report and land owners unwilling to part with their property.
He said the Federal Aviation Administration still needs to complete its environmental impact study, on which the city has been waiting for a long time. Herbert said he would hand a letter to U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, R-Shelbyville, on Tuesday, to encourage him to pressure the FAA to finish its report so that the city can pursue the airport expansion. Messer is scheduled to visit Storie’s Restaurant from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Herbert also said that he understands that some land owners do not want to sell the properties the city has deemed as necessary for the expansion. Some of those properties have been in the hands of those families for a long time, he said, but the airport expansion is a critical piece of the local economic development puzzle. If the city cannot find a workable solution with the owners, Herbert said, it may have to make use of eminent domain and to try to have courts force the owners to sell.