Individual difference of opinion persists over the New Castle-Henry County Municipal Airport extension project. Commissioners voted to proceed on runway expansion, even though they don't yet have the land acquisitions made.
At Tuesday's special Henry County Commissioner meeting, Commissioners voted to fund the next phase of the runway extension project by budgeting the county's half of $39,000, that money will go toward purchasing three more land parcels in 2013.
Kim Cronk said however he's concerned the new plan presented by the Board of Aviation Commissioners and Woolpert Engineering of Indianapolis is going to place the county and city in a roadblock.
"My concern is if we start construction next year and then can't buy the remaining land, what happens then?" Cronk said. "The initial plan had us purchasing all the land at first. I'm just concerned this is going to backfire on us."
The new 5-year capital improvement plan supported by FAA and INDOT breaks land acquisition into three phases to maintain local match funding yearly, Woolpert Representative John Baer said.
"The biggest intent with the new plan is we've heard a lot of counties have to spend a lot of time, effort and money to obtain a new runway, but nothing has been done," Baer said. "This plan is to try and expedite the process to achieve breaking ground faster."
Baer said the new plan allows the runway project construction to start in 2014 since a lump sum of $1.4 million is not needed at one time.
"By cutting the $1.4 million program down to an approachable $500 to $600 size, FAA and INDOT are now on board with this project," Baer said. "This is important since they will fund 90 percent of the whole project."
Mayor Greg York said a larger airport runway is needed to improve New Castle's economic status.
"We have three large companies that want to land their planes in New Castle, but can't right now," York said. "If we can show them we are both moving along with this plan then they will stay here. If we can't agree in the future, I feel this will be devastating to everyone."
Sara Kovach is a staff writer for The Courier Times. Follow her on Twitter@s_kovach.