MANSFIELD – City officials say most conclusions reached by the Ohio Airports Focus Study concerning Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport came as no surprise.
But figures for the economic impact the airport has on the area — as many as 919 ‘on-airport’ jobs with a $44.1 million payroll, 127 more jobs in airport construction, hotels or retail businesses benefitting from the airport, and 1,156 more jobs at companies supplying materials or services or supplying businesses that depend on use of the airport — were a pleasant surprise.
The need for a schedule of repairs to a facility with considerable pavement was dealt with in both the city’s capital improvements plan and the long-term master plan for the airport, City Engineer Bob Bianchi said.
“What was encouraging about the study is that there’s a pretty significant economic total associated with Lahm Airport,” Bianchi said. “You’ve got 2,200 jobs, roughly, associated with Lahm Airport.”
The state’s draft report puts Lahm’s total at 2,202 jobs, amounting to an $89.6 million payroll.
That’s more than four times the number of jobs associated with the nine nearest, smaller airports across north central Ohio.
The Ohio Department of Transportation released a draft version of its report on each of the 104 publically owned general aviation airports across Ohio in September. “The study hasn’t yet been completed,” Bianchi said. Counties and municipalities operating airports are reviewing figures on their airports for comment.
Local officials around the state had questions when ODOT began the focus study concerning what the results might mean for future grant funding for the many smaller general aviation airports (those that don’t serve as headquarters to a large passenger carrier airline).
Bianchi said the Focus Study will arm local officials with additional facts to make a case for funding for airport improvements, in grant applications to the Federal Aviation Administration or other agencies.
“Some of the things they’re looking at is the economic impact of all of the airports in Ohio, and where improvements to airports are needed,” he said. ODOT also mapped out service areas — “can everyone get to an airport within 30 minutes?” — and overlaps or redundant services.
The Focus Study will help funding agencies prioritize where money should be spent, the city engineer said.
“If you look at all of the total recommendations for all of the airports statewide, the cost number is absolutely astronomical,” Bianchi said. A half-billion dollars would be needed for improvements at all 104 airports across the state, he said.
The estimate the draft report gives for the cost of “critical compliance” improvements needed at Lahm Airport is $35,553,000. Nearly all of those expenses would come from 20-year pavement maintenance costs for the main runway, at $9.05 million, and pavement maintenance in all other areas of the airport, estimated at $26.19 million.
Bianchi said the estimates did not surprise him, given the extensive pavement at Lahm, which has two very long runways, one of which, at 9,001 feet, is the second longest runway for any general aviation airport in Ohio, behind Springfield, which has a 9,009 foot runway.
“I think they are looking at estimates in a ‘perfect world,’ which would be to make every piece of pavement at our airport black and not grey,” he said.
The city engineer noted that Lahm Runway 5-23 is due for repaving in 2015, at a cost of about $5 million.
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