By Kristin Rover
Clermont County may receive $500,000 to extend the airport runway as part of the state capital budget this year, according to county officials.
County Administrator Stephen Rabolt said the state capital budget hasn’t made it through the legislative process yet, but the funds are planned for the county as part of a higher education grant.
Rabolt said the runway extension has been pursued recently, but has been under discussion for several years.
“This has been something that has been discussed at the county for more than 10 years,” Rabolt said.
Rabolt said that currently, small corporate and private jets can’t land on the runway. He said the county has received interest from corporations and individuals who would like to use the airport but cannot.
Rabolt said the county is currently working to acquire land needed for the runway extension.
Clermont County Commissioner David Uible said the land includes approximately 17 acres near the airport and state Route 32.
“It’s clear, it’s a great place,” Uible said about the land that could be used for the extension.
Uible said the money that may come from the grant would not be used to acquire the land, but would be used to construct the runway extension.
Last year when the runway extension was discussed, Uible said he felt lengthening the runway would help with economic development, and he said it would be a great infrastructure improvement for the county.
“As much as anything, I get excited about it because of the economic development that would come from it,” Uible said last year about the project.
Uible said many big companies these days will use jets to transport their presidents and CEOs when they are looking for a new business location.
Uible said he does not believe jets would make any more noise than the planes that already fly in and out of the airport.
Hal Shevers, the founder and chairman of Sporty’s Pilot Shop, said last year that the company will continue to do a great job managing the airport if the runway gets extended or if it remains the same.
“We manage the airport for the county, and we manage it better than any other county airport in Ohio,” Shevers said last year. “If they lengthen the runway we will manage it just as well.”
Shevers said being in the air travel industry, they see what happens at airports throughout the country.
“All these small towns and states that have been increasing employment the fastest are lengthening their runway,” Shevers said.
Shevers said officials with different companies fly in, look around, and make a decision.
Shevers said private jets need more space to touch down not because they are larger, but because they travel at a higher rate of speed.
He said if they extend the runway further than 4,000 feet it will enable many executive-type jets to touch down.
“This airport was specifically built as an industrial airport in 1968,” Shevers said. “At that time airplanes were about the same size, but much slower.”
He said extending the runway would also be nice for pilots already using the runway.
“It would certainly make it safer for all existing airplanes,” Shevers said.
Last year, the county received a grant for a safety extension of the runway to extend the distance from 3,600 feet to 4,000 feet.
“We would need 4,500 feet to be jet worthy,” Uible said last year. “We would need to have 500 more feet.”
Uible said the funds from the state would enable them to extend the runway quicker than if the county had to come up with the funds.
“We looked at this as a long term project,” Uible said.
Rabolt said they would want to extend the runway beyond 4,000 feet but less than 5,000 feet so they are not required to also widen the runway.
“The final length hasn’t been determined, but it would be less than 5,000 feet,” Rabolt said.
Rabolt said if they receive the funds, and once the land is acquired, then they would begin planning the extension, but he said they will not move forward without giving the public a chance to comment about the proposed extension.
“This is not a done deal,” Rabolt said. “The commissioners will be holding some hearings. It is not just something that the commissioners will be moving forward on.”