VIENNA Counties want to yank airport funds



Mahoning County will stop subsidizing the airport if the tax doesn't pass, one commissioner says.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Commissioners from Trumbull and Mahoning counties say they want to stop pouring money -- between them about $20 million in the past 10 years -- into the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
"I think Northwest leaving is the straw that broke the camel's back," said Joseph J. Angelo Jr., Trumbull County commissioner, at a meeting Wednesday about possible cost-cutting at the Vienna facility.
"The airport is a money pit we cannot afford to fill," he said.
Airport officials have said they will work out ways to cover the $35,000 the airport will lose when Northwest, now the only airline at the airport, pulls out Sept. 8.
But to get by without the annual $300,000 subsidy from each of the two counties, the airport will need to attract at least two or three new airlines, increase corporate and charter use, and perhaps get a cargo airline, said Reid Dulberger, chairman of the board of the Western Reserve Port Authority, which runs the airport.
"We have to look at the airport, and we have to really scrutinize it," said David Ludt, a Mahoning County commissioner. "I don't know if the people of Mahoning County want to continue to pay for Trumbull County's airport."
County sales tax
Ludt said the subsidy from Mahoning County would end if voters don't pass a county sales tax in November.
"If the tax doesn't pass, there is no money available," he said.
Trumbull commissioners declined to discuss the ramifications for Trumbull County if Mahoning stopped supporting the airport.
Any jobs created because of the airport would benefit people in both counties, said Michael O'Brien, a Trumbull County Commissioner.
"Northwest's pulling out is sad and economically detrimental," he said. "At the same time, the Air Force Reserve base is one of the largest employers in Trumbull County, and they need the airport."
The airport continues to try to attract new airlines, Dulberger said. To do so may take more than the free car parking, counter space and runway use that has been offered in the past.
"It has not been enough," Dulberger said. "Airlines are looking for more direct cash."
Applied for grant
The port authority has applied for a $1.4 million federal grant, some of which could be used to pay airlines to come to Vienna, he said.
With the departure of Northwest, the port authority expects to lose some additional parking revenue, and revenue from the two car rental agencies at the facility, Dulberger said.
Port authority officials are looking at ways to reduce administrative, custodial and maintenance costs at the airport, and also will examine contracts for parking lot attendants and security, he said.
siff@vindy.com

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