The airport project may be sputtering but it’s still in the air. However, it may have moved off local government’s radar.

Don McCrary, of the Greensburg/Decatur County Airport Board of Commissioners (GDCABC), made his rounds at the latest meetings of the Decatur County Council, Decatur County Commissioners and the Greensburg City Council to give the bodies an update and to look for support to keep the project flying.

“We want to make sure they knew what we’re doing. It’s to give them an update and seek their support,” McCrary said.

During his previous rounds, all three entities agreed to seek an alternative site to replace the existing airport, which McCrary took as a good sign.

“In May, I was under the impression we were going to (finish the project),” McCrary said. “We knew this wasn’t going to happen unless all three bodies were onboard.”

However, when he returned to the County Council with a resolution to move forward, which would help them secure funds from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Council informed him they supported an alternate-site study in the past and would not give their pledge to anything more.

This week, the Decatur County Commissioners reiterated that sentiment. They said they would be willing to see the alternate study through but were leery of committing to anything else. Commissioner Charles Buell said he would like to attend the GDCABC’s next meeting, 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21, to see which alternate site the committee had chosen.

Monday evening, McCrary visited the City Council and informed them on the project and where he stood with the other entities.

“We have one body not supporting the alternate site study, one that’s unsure and the funds are in jeopardy,” he told the City Council.

After some discussion, the City Council gave its pledge to continue with the project - as far as possible.

“We feel we ought to continue on and find the right site. We should but, of course, it’s obvious the city alone cannot do the airport. It would be nice if (Commissioners and County Council) would also support it,” Mayor Frank Manus said.

McCrary said the uneven support does place the project in a state of danger. He noted funds could be lost, grants could be revoked and the GDCABC would have to reapply to the FAA and lose its preferential spot. When they began the project, however, the GDCABC members knew it may be difficult.

“We’re unique because normally you only have to get the county or the city onboard for the project, but we need all of them,” McCrary said.

He said the apprehension stems from uncertainty. Available real estate has not been found and the idea of taking land under eminent domain leaves lawmakers uneasy. Another hitch comes from the major occurrences happening in the county due to Honda, he noted.

For now, the GDCABC will continue to develop the project but are unsure where it can go after they’ve chosen a site, McCrary noted.

“Basically the only thing we can do now is an alternate site study and we can only use local funds,” he said.

While he has continued to foster a relationship with the FAA, McCrary feels they are close to writing off the local airport because the past $450,000 in funding has not be used to forward the project. The remaining balance will return to Washington, D.C., at the end of the year and the airport will lose all preferential treatment, leaving the GDCABC no choice but to reapply and be placed at the bottom of the grant lists.

However, McCrary noted an alternate site is close to being selected and if and when it is, the GDCABC can submit it as well as the existing site to the FAA for approval. The existing site must be included because FAA funds have already been spent there. The FAA will crunch the numbers, he noted, and make a recommendation on which site they would fund. If accepted, the FAA could pay up to 95 percent of the cost of the project and the Indiana Department of Transportation would match any money the county would have to spend. If the site is not agreeable to the local governing bodies, the funds do not need to be accepted.

While the cost will be a big factor on which site is chosen, McCrary notes it does not determine everything where the FAA is concerned.

“We have an existing airport and generally, it’s easier to develop and expand and existing site,” he said.

At the current airport, McCrary said there is an infrastructure already in place which, in terms of cost, makes it more appealing to the FAA.

“You go to a new location and you don’t have any of that. You have to develop infrastructure, which costs more,” he said.

However, the numbers are not the only factor. He said they’ll look at things like accessibility and areas served before making a decision.

While the project is close to being grounded, McCrary hopes to keep it viable because he believes failure to launch would have a negative impact.

“We’d lose out. The region would lose out, and the state would lose out,” he said.

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