Williams County Commissioners Commit To Getting New Hanger Built At Airport

PORT AUTHORITY … Dave Newcomer and Dawn Fitzcharles, Chair and Vice Chair of the Williams County, Ohio Port Authority, presented an update and some requests to the WC Commissioners at the Monday, October 18, 2021 Commissioners meeting. They were met with cooperation and appreciation from the commissioners for rising up to help the county with more residential housing. (PHOTO BY REBECCA MILLER, STAFF)

By: Rebecca Miller

The Monday morning, October 18, 2021 Williams County Commissioners meeting held three sessions with two of them of great import. During the first, they spent just a couple minutes to approve the minutes of the last meeting, the payment of bills, Supplemental Appropriations, and to Rescind a resolution (20-0148) that is no longer necessary.

They also signed the credit card appropriations for the month of November for the Auditor and the Sheriff’s Office; Travel for auditor to attend the 2021 Fall CAAO Conference; Dog warden report for the week of October 11, 2021; and a letter to MRDD approval to transfer fifteen passenger van.

Following a recess, they went back into regular session with Brent Wilson from the WC Airport Authority “to have further discussion regarding a hanger at the airport.”

Wilson thanked them for seeing him again and said that he had some more “firm numbers on the differences and also the prospectus based on some fuel sales, just Jet A fuel sales alone, not including AV gas.”

He also shared that since the last meeting, a lot of upheaval is taking place in the airline industry and “jet sales are through the roof right now.”

He was happy to inform them that he had a company call last week who wants to bring a Sovereign (a 10 passenger business jet) to Bryan from four to six times a month as soon as possible next year.

That is a 22 foot tall airplane and at this point they do not have a place to put it. He shared that in 2022, with just that one airplane, doing four trips a month, they would sell 52,000 gallons of Jet A fuel per month. “If you carry that through, on a conservative note,” he added, “in about eight years we would just be shy of $600,000 in fuel sales.”

“That does not include hanger rental, which we have predicted we would be somewhere in that $240-$250,000 range. So there is about $750,000 that we could raise potentially if we had that hanger here just for those aircraft (there are also three jets from Titan Tire and another potential jet as well.)

Wilson also pointed out that FAA “must see something in Williams County. They have invested over 5.7 million in the last two years. Last year we saved the county $135,000 because of COVID.

We did not have to match the 5%, so there $135,000 that we had earmarked for a taxiway that we did not have to use. “

“With that being said, if the FAA sees such good potential in our airport, we can’t grow the airport if we have to place to put airplanes. People are not going to bring in aircraft if there is no place to store it.”

He shared some further information and his opinions on the need and then Commissioner Brian Davis stated that he agrees about the FAA showing such an interest and that has to mean something.

He also commented on how the county has “gotten an awful lot for very, very little” from the state and federal grants. He then brought up an email which was received that morning from Spangler CEO, Kirk Vashaw.

Davis said that Vashaw is very supportive of the new hanger, as a pilot and a member of the Airport Authority Board, but the point he made about Spangler Candy being able to make the acquisition for Bit-o-Honey because of the airport being available, really caught his attention.

Vashaw said that this acquisition would not have happened and the forty new jobs would not have been created if it were not for the airport.

Davis continued, “So I believe that a vibrant community, a growing community, has to have a growing airport, plain and simple, as studies have shown that over and over again.” He commended the Airport Authority for “getting all this stuff done.”

Commissioner Lew Hilkert spoke next, saying, “I have looked at these numbers and thought about it a lot.”

He pointed out that if the county receives the million dollars from the Capital Fund Budget for this particular project, they would not need to get a loan. If not, they could apply for a million dollar loan at a rate less than 3% and as they will be receiving $750,000 “in a year from the solar project,” they could put that money toward the loan.

He also mentioned from Mr. Vashaw’s email that there are at least five other companies that are already using the airport, and they would most likely be willing to pay rent to keep their jets inside also. “I think it is a project worth looking into.”

Davis added that “currently the county has no debt obligation outside of the sewer systems which are being funded by the individuals using those systems,…so we have no debt.”

Commissioner Terry Rummel, who had indicated at other meetings that he was against building the hanger because of the cost, said, “When I sat in this chair this morning I was a firm No, and then we received Mr. Vashaw’s email. I think small, and I think that is part of my problem. I don’t get the airport and airport side…I need to open my mind to bigger.”

“People are flying jets to get from point A to point B. I definitely have evolved over the last hour and a half. And…if we are going to do this, I would build the whole thing (not do it in parts, which was one consideration). It is not going to get cheaper.”

Rummel shared his heart for the care needed for the children and families of Williams County, saying, “I will just say that my struggle is that I don’t feel that we have put enough money towards the children of Williams County and the families in need.”

“With this money being spent, I hope this Board looks at the projects that we are getting across our desks. Nobody has said no, I am just saying…along with this, we have to help fund…Sarah’s Friends have applied for some money to keep their projects going, and there are a lot of people in need in Williams County, and I am just hoping that we can fund those as well as this project. “

“There is…you know, we have 7.5 million dollars and this is a good investment into our community and into the future, so that we can keep helping people, too.” He ended by saying he supports the decision to move forward with building the new hanger.

Wilson said they will be going with Thiel Construction for the building of the hanger. They discussed a few more details and it was agreed that the Airport Authority will get together with Prosecutor Katie Zartman to work out the details for the contract.

He just needed a commitment from the Commissioners so that he can go ahead and order the steel and other supplies, and get going. All three commissioners stated that they are committed to the project and to move ahead with “the whole project.”

The third session began at 11:30 with Dawn Fitzcharles and Dave Newcomer present from the Port Authority to give an update. (The term Port Authority conjures up visions of water and ships for most people and rightly so, as they were begun for Maritime commerce.

That is no longer the sole purpose and the State of Ohio has sixty one Port Authorities. They are involved in the retention and creation of jobs as well as “the improvements of the quality of life in their communities” according to the Ohio Council of Port Authorities.

Newcomer (Chair) and Fitzcharles (Vice Chair) are two of seven members of the WC Port Authority, with the others being Bart Westfall, John Drinnon, Sean Rupp, Richard Reed and Tyson Stuckey. The WC Port Authority (WCPA) was formed in 2007.

Fitzcharles shard that the WCPA “is a public or semi-public entity that is responsible for managing and improving the construction and maintenance of infrastructure, the leasing or concessionary provision of this infrastructure to private companies, and the growth and competitiveness of the local economy. They also facilitate economic activity, capital investment, and job creation and retention.”

She continued the the group got together to see how they could most impact the community and referred to a study done in 2018 (Housing Opportunities Assessment).

“It was identified that Williams County could support an additional 300 to 450 housing units and that our county displays all the tell tale signs of a housing market poised for growth,” she said.

“So the overarching goal currently within the WC Port Authority is that we wish to support economic development and county communities by facilitating, promoting and helping to advance the development of residential housing in Williams County.”

Their guiding principles include: Developing opportunities for affordable housing; cultivate a permanent and constructive relationship with stakeholders “ as sort of a liaison between the commissioners, communities, and private entities; and Be Accountable – transparency, entrepreneurship and “free from political interference, with strict financial discipline and sound risk management.”

She pointed out a specific of the transparency saying they would like to “only pursue projects that will not involve significant financial benefit or involvement of any municipal officer or officer’s family.

All of the development opportunities would need to be municipality approved, and they would need have some assistance from” the Port Authority.”

“They hope to obtain real estate that would be good for residential development, “secure funding through the state, county or municipalities, donations from employers, grants from the federal or state government and contributions from area foundations.”

They were at the Commissioners meeting also to request some assistance for a place to meet and for financial representation, which means someone to be an accountable conduit for money. “As we start to gather funds to work on residential development, we need a place for it to go,” Fitzcharles explained.

The Commissioners recommended meeting at the East Annex, as it can be used sporadically, and they would just need to contact the commissioners office to schedule a meeting.

Concerning the money, Mr. Newcomer informed the commissioners that “the county prosecutor submitted a proposed agreement” which will need to be approved by the commissioners.

Commissioner Lew Hilkert stated that they would like some time to review it and talk with Prosecutor Katie Zartman before approving it. They would then have a meeting with the Auditor to set up the account.

Despite the fact that the commissioners have no decision making power in the Port Authority, Commissioner Terry Rummel said that he would like to attend the meeting with the auditor just “as the new guy on setting up a new account.”

The last topic from the Port Authority was the need for money. Mr. Newcomer said that “the amount of money that we need right now is very modest, and as I quoted, I will donate it. I just have to have someplace to write the check.”

Eventually they hope to have a lot of money coming in and then will need the commissioners to be on top of that. Rummel pointed out that a number of villages are all ready with some projects so he hopes they can help with that funding. He mentioned Holiday City and Edgerton.

Fitzcharles said that there is a need to “educate the communities about what is available.” Rummel said that Townships need to know as well.

Mr. Newcomer said, “For purposes of the press, so there is not a misunderstanding, we are not bringing anything to the towns and saying do this or that. “

“What we will provide is a tool for them to do things they cannot now do under certain current state laws. Tools don’t come free, but that’s when we get down the road to the extent we might come back to you to ask for any significant amount of money.”

“We also might need to hire people who know the grant business and what is available for us to go to Columbus and try to get some money. We have not taken that step. We are working our way towards it.”

The commissioners thanked Newcomer and Fitzcharles for the presentation, and with no further business for the day, the meeting adjourned.

Rebecca can be reached at rebecca@thevillagereporter.com

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