Tensions run high over airport

Each side said they don't want to be enemies, but they certainly didn't act that way at times. Tensions were running high at Tuesday's county commissioners' meeting as advocates for the Huron County Airport dominated the public comments for about 45 minutes.
Cary Ashby
Feb 16, 2011


Each side said they don't want to be enemies, but they certainly didn't act that way at times.

Tensions were running high at Tuesday's county commissioners' meeting as advocates for the Huron County Airport dominated the public comments for about 45 minutes.

Daniel LeClair, the president of the Friends of Huron County Airport, said he and Huron County Commissioner Larry Silcox had a "spirited discussion" about the fate of the airport during a private meeting Monday. LeClair told the commissioners Tuesday he wanted their assurance they would sign an application for $600,000 grant that would generate $30,000 for the airport.

LeClair, who said his non-profit organization represents more than 70 people with and without airport affiliations as well as farmers and business employees, said many businessmen told him they would jump at the opportunity that requires 5 percent but gets 95 cents on every dollar.

The money from an entitlement fund comes from fuel sales tax, airway bills and ticket taxes.

Commissioner Gary Bauer asked LeClair if he were asking the board to spend $22,000 to support the Friends of Huron County Airport. LeClair responded by saying his request was the equivalent of "investing in the community."

Bauer said the pending county budget is "extremely tight" and that the $22,000 isn't included now. If it were, he said it would mean taking money away from other county entities.

The commissioner also told LeClair he wanted to know how the airport would use the grant money. While LeClair didn't answer directly, he said: "I believe there is a master plan."

"I'll take that answer as you (either) don't know or don't care to tell me," said Bauer, who also said the airport needs to be specific with their plans.

Huron County Airport Authority Board President Dennis Sokol, in response to Bauer, said there is a specific list of projects. The airport first needs to address "immediate needs," Sokol said, which would include "safety risks," such as trees that obstruct pilots from landing at night and seal-coating the pavement.

Silcox, the commission president, said he was upset because it sounded as if LeClair was threatening the commissioners if there were no assurances about the grant. Silcox also mentioned that the tone of LeClair's presentation Tuesday wasn't the same as their private meeting Monday.

"This is not working together," Silcox said.

LeClair often spoke over the commissioners as they presented questions or responses. At the end of the lengthy, heated discussion, which also involved Sokol, LeClair accused the commissioners of treating him like their son and of dispensing "false information" and half-truths.

The airport was created in 1966.

Silcox, who started working for the county in the early 1970s, said there have been many times that airport officials have come to the county requesting matching funds to be self-sufficient and become the economic development tool it was promised to be. However, he said he hadn't seen either of those things happen in about 40 years.

In the past, Silcox said the county has granted matching funds to the airport, but the present situation has changed. Ultimately, he said he needs to look at what's in the best interest of the county before making any decisions.

"That's where my ultimate decision must be," Silcox said. "I want to have all the information I can have as we move forward."

Newly-elected Commissioner Joe Hintz addressed Sokol and LeClair after his fellow commissioners spoke.

"There's a tone on the airport that really bothers me; it's a negative tone," Hintz told them.

Hintz said he's heard it's easier to lead a horse with a carrot rather than a buggy whip. When it comes to the airport's perspective, he said he's heard too much of the buggy whip approach -- both when Hintz was studying the situation as an election candidate and now as a commissioner.

"I'll take a public stand. I'm in favor of the drag strip," Hintz said, referring to Summit Motorsports Park. "I'm in favor of closing down the airport."

Hintz said he's not in favor of losing Summit to another location because it would be "disastrous to the county." He also stressed to Sokol and LeClair "I'm not at war with you guys" and like Silcox, he needs to make decisions based on what's best for Huron County.

Sokol, while saying it's important to argue one's position as logically as possible, said if the county closes the airport, "it will go into federal court."



Let's not throw good money after bad---There are priorities for the county--stick to your guns commissioners!


I'm leavin on a jet plane

swiss family

why does it have to mean closing the airport? or allowing Summit to use the property?Summit only wants to use some of their property 6 times a year..how much air travel does that actually block?couldn't we keep the airport, and the raceway, and on those 6 days a year. divert the airport activity, that is IF there would even be any activity on those 6 days, to another local airport?maybe Sandusky's airport?or there used to be an air current flag, just outside of Norwalk's city limits on 250 south, just past 5 points. Herefords row or something?tat could be used 6 days a year?so that making compromises would leave everyone happy??


Considering I race weekly at SMP, I can say I still think there are OTHER alternatives to closing the airport. What about making ST RT 18 or 20 one way with two lanes in or out at the PEAK times. If you have ever gone to a NASCAR race this happens all the time. If you travel on he road the track is on the only option you have is to go into the facility, this NEVER happens at SMP. Maybe GreenwichMilan TL could be widened to help with southern traffic flow, or ST RT 601. I just think there are other alternative. Maybe the installation of a pedestrian bridge over st rt 18 for the south parking lot. I realize the Baders want to expand, but I also think there are alternative there as well. Look at the south side, make GMTL road wider would help there as well..... Just some other ideas that I think should be looked out over closing an FAA Facility, or selling it. There are a number of NHRA racers who fly in ... I know that Jim Head flies into HC Airport regularly .. and he builds all FAA airports.


Wow where do I start? Lets say Summit over estimated its financial impact on the local economy - lets say the economic impact is $25 million - the operating budget, in the past, of the airport has been just over $100k and last year the airport had to ask for assistance from the county commissioners just to buy gas.............what am i missing here? I'll take Baders $25 million over the airport costing me $11k any day. I live within a stones throw of the airport - I dont see anyone using it - I say to the supporters - SHOW ME THE MONEY!


I don't think that Summit offered any information on their economic impact - I thought that was a local developmental council or something. I can't remember the details from another story, but I don't think it was them.


swiss family because if summit buys the property bader pays taxes -both property and sales right now the airport pays nothing in taxes and say FAA requires payback of the grants in the long run the county will recoup more in taxes


Agree! I do not see the wisdom of putting ANY $$ into the airstrip. Although, actually, it will go to "Friends" of the airstrip...
@PublicSafety.. Earlier, in another story, you had no tone of compromise! You were all about your 50 friends that are flying in on race weekend,,, How the airstrip can't close if flight plans are made...(wonder how contrived that was, if true) Are you saying no request for Summits use will be made to the FAA if $$ isn't forthcoming?
The county can(permanently) close that airstrip if it so chooses..If there is no $$ for it, how do you propose we keep it open? Gov't. mandated funding?? HA!
You and your "friends" do not want to play nice. You want to "blackmail" our county and our tax dollars in order for OUR county to continue to benefit from Summit jobs/income...

citizenof hc

You don't appear to be very enlightened. As I understand, the group has a little more insight than you and realizes that businesses utilize transportation, yes Virginia, especially air transportation. Maybe you should do a little research before you remark. Executives are using airports more each day to travel. Businesses look for these airports before they decide to commit to an area. Janeville acoustic used it last week to ship parts to IL. The commissioners know that the county is obligated to the feds so the airport isn't going anywhere. Right now, they have a chance to grab up a large chuck of money (for 5 cents on a dollar) to put local businesses to work, or maybe you collect unemployment so it doesn't matter. If I owned a Huron county excavating service, or a local paving service I would jump at the opportunity for an extra $200,000 - $400,000 project in 2011 that could keep my full time employees working. I have no intererst in the raceway, but you don't hear me complain when you use my tax dollars for the state tourism grants Bader received. It's not just the 6 days closure here, it's the fact that the 3 stooges continue to purposely defund a county facility that's part of our infrastructure, and then point fingers, when they are the ones causing the problem. They have a chance to fix their facility with a small amount of their money. Maybe you prefer selling hotdogs, parking cars, selling tickets for kiwanis, or selling beer for rotary club, your choice. I prefer to have full time wages year round. Oh and the airport is suffering from the commissioers corruption, but it's still there. Yes. go ahead and make the resolution. I've purchased my popcorn, and I've got a great seat....


The Bader's do not want to buy the airport, so get that out of your minds right now. There intrest is only in using the runways for egress a few nights through the summer. For this they are willing to pay. Use the money they pay and apply it towards the grant and everyone will be satisfied. I am a pilot and I know a lot of pilots who have hangered out there, and I don't think there is a single one who would totaly mind given up a few evenings of runway access for improvements at the airport. Heck, I know most of them avoid that airport like the plague on those busy nights out toward the racetrack anyways.


The commissioners have gone on record saying that Bader has to have the entire airport property within the next few years for his current operation and for his future Industrial park dream BUT I did some checking around and found this information.. When you make a binding contract with the federal government, you are expected to abide by it..........It appears the federal government holds the hammer over the county and commissioners whether they like it or not..............The Huron County Airport is a federally obligated airport – the 2000 - 2007 HCA federal grant money came from the Federal Airport Improvement Program funding. The 2006 application (for $138,700) was signed by current Commissioner Gary Bauer. The 2007 grant application (for $535,804) used for the purchase of 48 Acres of land for the airport, was signed by former Commissioner Ralph Fegley.
Refer to the 2005 Terms and Conditions of Accepting AIP Grants; or the 2009 FAA Airport Compliance Manual, Order 5190.6b. (Chapter 4) Federal Grant Obligations and Responsibilities
2009 ACM 5190.6b (Similar verbiage to the 2005 version)
Section 4.2. Sponsor Federal Obligations Under Various Grant Agreements. The federal obligation becomes a part of the grant offer, binding the grant recipient when it accepts federal funds for airport development.
Section 4.3. The Duration of Federal Grant Obligations. Federal obligations relating to the use, operation, and maintenance of the airport remains in effect throughout the useful life of the facilities developed under the project, but not to exceed 20 years. In cases where land was acquired with federal assistance under AIP (Airport Improvement Program), the federal land obligations remain in perpetuity
Section 4.4. The Useful Life of Grant Funded Projects. The useful life of a federally funded airport development project extends for the period of time during which it is serviceable and useable with ordinary day to day maintenance. Generally, improvements are presumed to last at least 20 years because they are built to FAA standards. If new grants are issues for reconstruction, rehabilitation, or major repair, a new useful life period begins. An airport sponsor can not shorten its obligation by allowing projects to deteriorate.
Section 4.6. Federal Obligations under Basic Grant Assurance Requirements. When the airport sponsor accepts the grant, the assurances become binding contractual federal obligations between the sponsor, and the FAA
4.6.g. Grant Assurance Applicability (1). Airport Sponsor Airport Development and Noise Compatibility. Requirements for airport development and noise compatibility programs undertaken by the airport are the same. All 39 standard grant assurances for airport sponsors apply (Table 4.1, Page 4-9)


So, you are saying that $138,000 in improvements to the "airport" in 2006 are supposed to last for 20 YEARS?! Just what were these "improvements?" The addition of land, (2007) in my opinion does NOT qualify as a reconstruction, rehabilitation, or major repair. Questionable for the '06 $$ also...

I do NOT see how this indebts us to the Feds for 20 YEARS, and I bet it can be litigated successfully..

Could THIS be why the "friends" want Huron county to commit $22,000 ??? Because they KNOW that what they have done with prior Fed. $$$ DOES NOT qualify for Huron county to be OBLIGATED to the airstrip for 20 YEARS?!

Check it out commissioners!!! Hold your ground!! Doesn't sound "kosher" to me...

citizenof hc

Yes. I think the commissioners should go ahead and close the airport. I can't wait until the feds step on their collective necks like a bug. Are you really so naive. Can you not read or understand what a contractual obligation is. dont you remember just how cocky Lorain county commissioners were when they were going to close their airport a year ago. Feds stepped in and now the LCC are playing nice, in fact they asked for grant money to improve airport this year. Can't wait until the same happens here. Looking forward to seeing Silcox's eyeball bug out when they step on his neck. Instead of being one of the uninformed or misinformed who believes the bull**** that comes out of the mouths of three stooges at the county building, maybe you should research the FAA Airport Compliance manual and look at the Assurance and Obligations section. Just saying you might learn something that you didn't know yesterday....


The airport is a waste of space and time...it's time for expansion that leads to jobs, no matter what the jobs pay. Let's shut it down and open a new one at Plum Brook!




this website has the strangest fences to jump over i have ever seen, especially for repeat commenters. they make u type in distorted words u cant read lol. its a @$%&*& up website for commenters they dont like...."your password is too easily decoded, choose another"??

these commisioners are a corrupt bunch of jokers and the people of huron county deserve them.

the newspaper is in their back pocket and everybody knows it.


DI have been following the articles on the airport issue. If Mr Bader wishes to build more onto the raceway the areas on the other side of the roads would do perfectly fine. That may cost him more but that IS money that will go to the community.
Every time I have read about how the airport is not operating at a proffit I'm remembering how it has looked to me whenever I've been by it. It has never looked like an open and inviting place to go. I have been around aviation since 73 and have never heard of huron county has a place to go.
That is an indication of the poor support the commissioners have provided over the years. Remember in bussness a bad rep goes far and fast and a good one take constant upkeep. Why would anyone go to an airport to get gas if no one is there to service their needs?
If the commissioners ever wanted the airport to be selfsufficent then why have they left it empty of the proper services. Why have the commissioners left the roads unable to deal with the traffic to the race track?????
I have been caught by the traffic jam on 20 for the night of thunder before and it is very bad when you are stopped over a mile away from the track when you are not even going to the race!!!!
The FAA requires a 7 year plan for fund requests and that plan has to be constantly updated to be eligable for more. Commissioner Bauer is one who should know that and be aware of the details in it! the more I have read the more I have been left wondering why the commissioners are so determined to sell the airport when they know they CAN NOT legally do so. The cost of the legal battle will exceed whatever they get for the land.
If the people of Huron county want to improve the economy of their area they need to provide the services to atract more bussnesses to the area and transportation is the number one item that will be looked at. Not just how suplies and product can move but also the access for the management or owners will have to their facilities and markets. That means the airport AND roads.


What government agency has made money ? It is not the role of the airport to make money and it is not the role of these commissioners to give the airport away or sell public property to a business.Bader can build an access around the airport and deal with landowners not a federally funded long term planned airport.Let him take his plans and deal with the land owners.STOP BEATING UP THE AIRPORT STAFF JUST SO SILCOX MAKE A HEADLINE.


No "beating up the staff." Just want to know ; WHERE the Gov't. $$$ has been spent? WHAT $$$ the airstrip is making? WHO works there and in what capacity? WHY they can't even plow the landing strips with their OWN equipment?

It doesn't matter if YOU believe no gov't. entity has "made money" or not. THIS airstrip NEEDS to "Make a PROFIT" in order to be funded by US, the TAX-PAYERS/OWNERS!!! We can NOT continue to throw money at a "dead horse" just so a VERY FEW can have a place to park their private planes! BTW...How much do they pay for storage out there? That would be another question..

This is a LUXURY expense. We can't afford it! Willard has an airstrip. It doesn't seem to be an albatross.. The county can use that one for whatever it needs. All the factories are in Willard anyway, and the execs. are the only one I can think would NEED an airstrip.


No business the size of the Huron County Airport could function with an annual budget of $5,000 for salaries, upkeep, and plowing. The city of Willard runs the Willard Airport, NOT the county. Keep in mind, there will be no factories built in Norwalk without a local airport handy for supplies and executives. Think of the future growth of the county. Summit and the airport are BOTH needed in this county. They need to work together.


I'm sorry but I really don't think that the airport is really a necessity for a company to build a factory in Huron county. Especially that one where they wouldn't be able to fly in during the winter because it is covered in snow. The airport is NOT needed and you said it yourself, an annual budget of $5,000? Seriously? It's obviously costing us more money to keep it around than it is benefiting us. Just think of your taxes going up so a couple of rich farts can fly their planes in. It is not worth the cost of the up keep. Its like trying to keep a hand that has been blown up by a hand grenade, hoping it will heal. Cut it off already and move on!


Unfortunately, the airport IS an asset to Huron County. Sure, it may not be a busy as Cleveland Hopkins, but Fisher Titus Hospital, the largest employer in the county, flies doctors, consultants, and supplies into the airport. When we HAD big companies in Norwalk, they flew in their executives and supplies. There are several independent commuter planes that still pick up passengers at the airport. There are a couple of other small businesses operating out of the airport, too. We are not seeing the forest for the tress. If you kill the airport, you might as well shoot Norwalk in the foot as well. It is basic Economics 101. The county needs BOTH Summit AND the airport. If closing the airport for a few days in the summer will keep them both operating, then great!


Oil, you're "bottom line" is so very correct. Can your say grandstanding?


Lets get down to the basics. The airport is not bringing in any money to the county. It's worthless, bottom line. Now they are trying to get money FROM the county. If people want to fly in, fly in to the Sandusky airport. I don't see why this is such a problem. It's worthless, taking up valuable land that could be used to bring in even more money to the community. Get off your high horses and quit fighting over stupid things. Some people are so pig headed that they can't see the forrest through the trees. Some people are such children.


Being on any board is very tough because you have altering views on many different topics. Silcox said they have matched monies year after year and the airport has yet to grow into this hub it was told that it would. Times are changing and budgets are tight across the board everywhere and its a tough decision but you have to do what is best for the county. Operating costs to keep an airport up and running have to be crazy. The materials to have a solid runway have nearly doubled in the last five years. I think there can be some type of agreement here to let Summit use the airport 6 times a year..............just do it and stick to it and move on to the next topic. Sure some will be upset but you cannot satisfy everyone.


Take the dollars being dumped into the "money pit" on route 20 and PROPERLY fund the sheriffs office.


Ahah! A novel idea! An idea that makes sense. So you are saying that we should take all the money that is wasted on something that no one is using, take that money and give it to the sheriffs department, which we use every day for our safety, and buy them some new cruisers? Nope. Sorry, that just makes too much sense, is too good of an idea and just will not happen. I'm sorry but apparently some people love wasting tax payers money on the most idiotic things. I for one think that is the best idea I've heard, besides getting rid of the airport that is.


Yep. that in a nutshell is the plan. Take the $$ wasted and put it into protecting the citizens of Huron County. Mr Silcox should be on board as a former XO @ the sheriffs office. But, you're right it probably makes too much sense to actually do it.


Seems to me a couple of rich old guys who are used to having their own little playground at taxpayer expense are pitching a fit cuz it might all be taken away.....how about you wealthy plane owners spend your own money, buy some land and create your own playground?
The 99% of us county tax-paying residents that don't use this playground are tired of funding your fun...so take your threats of federal court, and your bullying, and put it....somewhere else.


It's all a matter of perception. It seems to me like the race track is a place for a bunch of rich people (who can afford those tickets) to get together and drink lots of over-priced beers while they watch very expensive cars waste precious fuel at 40 gallons a second. Which ones are the "rich guys"?