ELKHART – Elkhart is looking for yet another way to save money with less property tax money.
Now, the city is considering leasing its municipal airport to a private company, but that won’t be easy.
A good number of the flights in and out of the airport are tied to business aircraft and private pilots.
Right now, there is no commercial air traffic there, but the airport still pays dividends for the city, which is currently using federal money to make improvements.
“When you look at the airport overall and the use of it and the estimated value of the airport to the city of Elkhart, which is somewhere near $76 million, you know then the cost of it is fairly minimal for that kind of return,” said Mayor Dick Moore.
Those on the City Council know its economic value. But some feel leasing it to a private group could save the city money and still allow Elkhart to benefit from it.
“If some other company were to run the operation, we would still get the benefits of having the amenity there for the corporations to use, for people to do the flying lessons,” said City Councilman Kyle Hannon. “But the general public doesn’t have to bear the full cost of it.”
Mayor Moore points out it’s easier said than done to allow the airport to be leased out.
“It requires federal mandates,” said Moore. “It would require providing fire service and air traffic controllers. Whoever leases would have to take over.”
The mayor says he is more than willing to listen to any ideas on ways to save the city money in these tight budgetary times, but he says he’s not sure this particular idea could take flight and get off the ground.
“We will do what we have to do,” said Moore. “We will certainly not refused to look at anything that comes our way. We never have. But I doubt that we will find it to be a benefit to turn the airport over to somebody else.”
Some Republican City Council members want the city to do a study to weigh the benefits of leasing the airport.