City officials continue to wait for word from the Federal Aviation Administration regarding closure of the St. Clair Regional Airport.
Mayor Ron Blum told The Missourian shortly before Christmas that he has not received any new information from the FAA regarding the city’s request, which has been in the works for years.
In late August, Blum signed and the city sent a final narrative analysis to FAA officials and asked that a final decision about the closure request be made by Thanksgiving.
“We requested an answer within 90 days,” Blum said. “We do realize this is a huge decision both for the FAA and the city that will have a monumental impact. We know it’s worth considering all options and also realize this takes time.”
The last part of the narrative analysis stated that “the city of St. Clair once again requests release from all past grant obligations, subject to a requirement to repay the unamortized portion of such grants, and requests closure of St. Clair Regional Airport and authorization to sell the land by sealed bid, subject to a requirement that all proceeds from said sale be provided for disbursement at the direction of the Federal Aviation Administration,” the last part of the document’s conclusion reads.
The final paragraph then requests a decision to be made by the FAA by Nov. 24. Blum said he remains hopeful he will hear something from the FAA early in 2013.
“I think (City Administrator) Rick (Childers) has put together a very good narrative analysis of what the FAA has requested,” Blum said at the time the document was sent.
St. Clair officials have been trying to close the airport on the north side of the city between Interstate 44 and Highway 47 for years. Permission must be granted by the FAA because the city obtained and used grants, the latest in 2006, to make improvements on the 80-acre facility.
“Once again the city has fully complied with every item requested by the FAA to determine closure,” Childers told The Missourian when the document was sent. “We really hope they (FAA) will reach a determination.”
In March, Blum met with FAA officials in Washington, D.C., to discuss the closure request. During that meeting, the mayor was told by Kate Lang, FAA deputy associate administrator, that the city must do four things in regard to the closure process.
•Prepare a third appraisal of the airport property in accordance with uniform standards of professional appraisal practice and FAA requirements;
•Present a narrative analysis about why the airport has not been as successful as nearby airports in Washington and Sullivan;
•Present a narrative analysis about how the closure of the airport produces a net benefit to aviation;
•Meet with Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association representatives for requested feedback on closure.
All four of those items have been completed, Blum and Childers said, and the document sent in August to the FAA includes documentation that supports the local officials’ statements.
“We’ve always wanted to make sure that what we’re doing with this is beneficial both to aviation in general and to the city of St. Clair,” Blum said last week. “Because of that, we want to make sure we’re doing this correctly.”
The conclusion of the analysis starts by saying that “the city of St. Clair does not recognize any benefit from the continued existence of St. Clair Regional Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration has not provided a single document which indicates that the continued existence of St. Clair Regional Airport provides any level of significant benefit to general aviation.
“The city of St. Clair has provided logical and irrefutable indication that funds generated by the closure of St. Clair Regional Airport will provide greater benefit to general aviation than any reasonably anticipated local improvements can ever provide.
“The city of St. Clair has completed all tasks which directly relate to closure with more complete AOPA input regarding how best to apply funds much more probable upon closure approval.”
The conclusion goes on to state that “attempts to cast the existing situation as the result of a lack of proactive measures by the city are unwarranted.”