Indiana Gazette: Commissioners approve two projects aimed at bolstering Stewart Field

Indiana County’s board of commissioners voted Wednesday to approve a grant agreement and resolution dealing with the future of the Indiana County-Jimmy Stewart Airport in White Township.

The resolution will start the process of turning up to 50 vacant acres into an “Airport Land Development Zone,” while the grant agreement opens up state funding for what Airport Authority Manager Rick Fuellner described as “a big hangar out there (that is) going to attract a lot of business.”

Indiana County Office of Planning & Development Executive Director Byron G. Stauffer Jr. said the grant is for $1.5 million from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Aviation Development Program.

The grant requires a 25% local match commitment, or $500,000, but Stauffer said the funding will leverage an additional $4.95 million in federal and state funding.

Board Chairman R. Michael Keith concurred, saying “there is opportunity, there is growth happening,” and the 12,000-square-foot corporate hangar facility and related infrastructure approved Wednesday are expected to bring in larger aircraft — such as one Keith saw three weeks ago on the tarmac of the airport also known as Stewart Field.

“There are companies that are actually wanting to use them,” Keith said.

Meanwhile, ICOPD, in collaboration with the airport authority, is planning an application to the state Department of Community & Economic Development, requesting designation of up to 50 acres for a zone meant “to encourage and promote the creation of new jobs on land and buildings at and around airports within this Commonwealth, while accelerating economic activity at and around airports on undeveloped land or vacant buildings owned by airports, that can provide new revenue sources for airports.”

And, Keith hopes, new revenue sources that can further relieve the burden on property owners of paying real estate taxes.

As Stouffer put it, “the ALDZ program is an incentive-based tax credit program to foster development on this vacant land.”

County Commissioner Robin A. Gorman said an airport is an economic asset in any community, and said the local airport was lauded by Gov. Josh Shapiro and three members of his cabinet.

Gorman had a chance to talk about Indiana County’s assets earlier in the day, joining Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission Executive Director Rich Fitzgerald as part of his weekly hour on the KDKA-1020 “Big K Morning Show.”

A commissioner from Lawrence County also was featured. SPC covers Indiana as well as nine other counties around Pittsburgh in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and Gorman is Indiana County’s representative on SPC’s executive committee, while the other commissioners, Stouffer and Indiana County Chamber of Commerce President Mark Hilliard represent the county on the SPC board of directors.

It also wasn’t the first time recently that Indiana County was noticed in Fitzgerald’s weekly appearances on KDKA. On June 24, he was joined by Westmoreland County-based syndicated columnist Salena Zito, to recap a recent series of Interagency Working Group on Coal & Power Plant Communities & Economic Revitalization hearings, one of which was held recently at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.

Elsewhere in White Township, with the encouragement of ICOPD and Indiana County Community Action Program Inc., the commissioners entered into an Option to Purchase Agreement with Mystic Brooke Development LP of Indiana to secure a parcel of vacant ground for a HOME-ARP (American Rescue Plan) Non-Congregate Shelter that would temporarily house homeless individuals and/or families while working with them to secure permanent housing solutions.

“The facility will include administrative offices for the case management staff of ICCAP,” ICOPD Assistant Director LuAnn Zak told the commissioners. “The proposed project … is in the development and application phase. The requested option is for a nine-month time frame and will cost $1 (one dollar).”

The application is being aired today at a public hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. in the commissioners’ meeting room on the second floor of the courthouse.

Also Wednesday, the commissioners agreed with ICOPD, the YMCA of Indiana County and Thomas R. Harley Architects LLC to enter into a $123,400 contract agreement with Davis Brothers Heating & Air Conditioning of Indiana to install five new boilers and two new hot water heaters as part of a replacement project at the YMCA, along West Pike and Ben Franklin Road North in White Township.

“A total of four proposals were submitted ranging from (the) low bid by Davis Brothers … to a high bid of $265,000,” ICOPD Deputy Director for Community Development & Housing David Morrow told the commissioners. “This project is being funded with (state) Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program and YMCA funds.”

View the full article at