Even as Erie County's officials are discussing a possible regional airport with Huron County's leaders, plans to expand the Norwalk-Huron County Airport are moving forward.
The Federal Aviation Administration has OK'd a $535,804 grant for the airport, Congressman Paul Gillmor, R-Tiffin, said Friday.
The money is being used to buy 48 acres of land to expand the airport, rehabilitate the airport's taxiway and apron and design drainage improvements for the airport.
Huron County Commission Mike Adelman said Friday the FAA's grant announcement had been expected. The deal to purchase the land already has been concluded, Adelman said.
The land acquisition prepares the way for future plans to lengthen the airport's runway, Adelman said.
"To give credit where it's due, this was through a real effort by our airport board. They were also involved in negotiations to obtain the property," Adelman said.
Huron County's commissioners have been meeting with Erie County's commissioners to discuss Erie County's efforts to build a new airport to serve NASA Plum Brook Station. NASA has said it needs a runway serving jumbo jets to land additional work for its test facilities.
FAA rules apparently ban using federal money to build a new airport in Erie County, which already is served by other nearby federally-funded airports, so Erie County's commissioners have suggested shutting down the Norwalk airport and transferring its funding authority to a new Erie and Huron counties regional airport near Plum Brook. They argue that new NASA jobs would benefit both counties.
Tom Ferrell, chairman of the Erie County commissioners, said the announcement isn't a big surprise.
"We knew they had some additional plans at the airport," Ferrell said.
"Obviously, it does throw a monkey wrench into the works. It's just something we'll have to deal with," he said. "We're going to have to be very inventive in working out this new airport relationship we have to forge."
Ferrell said Erie County's commissioners will meet again soon with Huron County's commissioners.
"Probably within a month is what we were shooting for," he said.