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Last updated: Tue. Jan. 22, 2013 - 10:10 am EDT

Airport moves ahead on land transfer

Court ruling aids 10-acre shift near airfield runways

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After a judge’s ruling in their favor late last year, airport officials felt confident enough Monday to move forward with a plan to accept nearly 10 acres from Fort Wayne Community Schools.

The property houses Pleasant Center Elementary, a school that was closed in June 2010 and has remained empty since.

The Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority wanted to acquire Pleasant Center, and FWCS officials were set to transfer the property to the airport. But as the proposal was being reviewed, the General Assembly amended its charter school laws to require public school corporations to make vacant buildings available to charter schools for lease or purchase for $1.

The law required districts to keep vacant schools available for four years.

The Indiana Public Charter Schools Association then sued to stop the sale.

In December, Allen Superior Court Judge Nancy Boyer ruled the school district can sell the vacant school without letting the building languish any longer.

Legislators are considering lessening the effect of a law that stymied the transfer of the property. Senate Bill 135 would cut in half the time schools have to hold onto vacant buildings – from four to two years – in case charter schools want to buy or lease them.

By owning the land, which is within a mile of one of the runways, the Airport Authority can control any kind of site development, said Scott Hinderman, executive director of airports for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority.

“Without having a bid, we are anticipating that to have the building demolished would cost about half a million dollars,” Hinderman said, although he added that it is not their intent to demolish the building at this time.

Board member Jerome Henry pointed out that the roads on either side of the property are heavily traveled by tractor-trailer rigs delivering and picking up cargo.

“There are easily 300 trucks a day on each of those roads,” Henry said. “I could see that site becoming a fuel farm or a truck stop.

But, Henry added that the development decision is compatible with the airport.

No money was involved with FWCS; the property was simply transferred, Hinderman said. The airport will now be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the property, he said.

Year in review

In other business, the airport board reviewed year-end statistics that showed 2012 was the best year Fort Wayne International has experienced since 2008.

The number of people boarding planes at the airport was up by 2.35 percent, said Jessica Miller, marketing and administration assistant.

That compares with South Bend Airport, which had a 3 percent decline last year, and Indianapolis airport, where passenger boardings fell 2.2 percent.

Smith Field had a good year as well, reporting 42 percent increase in fuel transactions last year, Miller said.

Hinderman also introduced Robin Strasser, who was recently hired as the airport’s director of administration and finance. Stresser, a certified public accountant, has 26 years of accounting experience including working for Baden Gage and Schroeder CPA firm, Northwestern Mutual and STAR Wealth Management. Stresser spent the past four years serving as controller at Fort Wayne Public Transportation Corp./Citilink.

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