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Erie, Ottawa counties seal deal

Andy Ouriel • Dec 30, 2013 at 11:34 AM

The turbulence has lifted in a longtime disagreement between government officials and others overseeing the area’s largest public airport.

Commissioners from Erie and Ottawa counties and Erie-Ottawa International Airport board members finally signed a contract resolving many aviation financing issues.

The new pact replaces an outdated agreement signed in 1968.

A signed deal also ensures Griffing Flying Service, a longtime aviation provider in Sandusky, can move to the public airport in Port Clinton.

Among the contract’s main stipulations:

• Both sets of commissioners collectively vowed to provide $30,000 in taxpayer funds annually beginning in 2014 for the next five years. The $60,000 should help offset airport operational and maintenance expenses, totaling about $400,000 a year.

• Both county commission boards also agreed to equally share any federal aviation grants costs for improving the airport.    

Federal government grants typically cover 90 percent of all infrastructure improvement costs at public airports. County commissioners of Erie and Ottawa counties would then equally split the cost for the remaining 10 percent cost.

• Griffing executives pay a certain percentage of all fuel sales dispensed at the airport.

Once annual fuel sales surpass a certain threshold, then executives can actually earn a rebate of sorts for each gallon of gas sold. About 15 commercial Griffing planes should help spur fuel sales.

Erie County commissioners delayed signing a new deal mostly because of the fuel sales arrangement.

But officials and board members finally came to a consensus, allowing Griffing to finally relocate.

Griffing, overseeing a private operation, couldn’t obtain federal aviation grants, like the Erie-Ottawa International Airport can. This made it difficult for Griffing to compete with public airports receiving financial assistance.

“While it’s unfortunate that the Griffing family was forced to close in Erie County, we’re excited that they can continue to provide the quality aviation service to our area that we have enjoyed for many years” Erie County commissioner Pat Shenigo said.

Said Ottawa County commissioner Jim Sass: “It’s important both counties came together and supported this facility. This benefits both counties, the region and Northwest Ohio”

The airport recently changed its name, previously called the Erie-Ottawa Regional Airport, because pilots from areas outside the U.S. can now take off and land there.

Several calls placed to Griffing’s top executives went unreturned.

Griffing will boost airport

Despite Griffing Flying Service’s permanent departure from Sandusky, the private airport should still inject stacks of cash at its new destination in Port Clinton.

Local officials expect Griffing’s move to the Erie-Ottawa International Airport should create $102,000 of additional income at the public facility, according to a study done earlier this year. Additional planes lifting off and touching down in Port Clinton means more customers paying landing fees and purchasing fuel — all important factors in developing an airport.

Griffing executives also decided to invest $300,000 for a new hangar to house most planes — about 15 or so — the company deals with.

Also landing in Port Clinton: A maintenance shop so pilots can receive repairs on-site and a completely remodeled office for Griffing’s 15 full-time employees to work out of.

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