BROOKVILLE – Over 50 people attended the Aug. 12 Franklin County Commissioners meeting to learn what the plans are for the Batesville Airport and Three Mile Road.
The airport, located at 25222 Enochsburg Road, Batesville, is owned and operated by Batesville Aviation Services. The former Hill-Rom Holdings and Hillenbrand Inc. airport was purchased by the company in December 2012. Owner Charles “Shorty” Whittington, Elizabethtown, said, “We want everyone to know we want to use the current assets ... to promote the economy and jobs.”
Mitch Thielking, Oldenburg, who has a family farm close to Three Mile Road, had concerns about its possible closure because it’s a route many residents take. He also expressed concern about the air space.
Dan Meyer, who lives on the southwest side of the airport, noted, “It’s the wall (at the south end of the runway) you put by the road that’s a liability.” He pointed out the importance of keeping it open: “Farmers come down it, and it is used if other roads are flooded.
“We do know you’re going to sell fuel there and fix planes ... (and) now you don’t have to pay sales tax on the fuel. What’s the benefit for the county? .... You’ve got to work with us. I’ve never tried to stop your business. I just want you to stay within your fences. Let’s work together.”
Some of the concerns were addressed by Ken Nobbe, Batesville Aviation Services managing member. Regarding the wall on Three Mile Road, he remarked, “We made sure everything was in line prior to doing anything.”
During a June 24 commissioners’ meeting, “I said we would like to utilize the west side of the airport. If we did that, one of the options would be to possibly close the road. A second option was to put gates across it and a third was to relocate the road.
“You mentioned the state has dropped the sales tax on jet fuel, but ... excise tax has been added.
“The infrastructure hasn’t changed .... the big hangar with the Federal Aviation Administration repair station will hold three airplanes at a time .... (and) transient aircraft will come in, but the more people that come to visit, the more money that’s coming into the local area.”
The manager emphasized, “We’re in a planning stage right now of going from a private airport to a public use, privately-owned airport. We’re not here to inconvenience anybody. Our goal is to benefit the community and boost jobs.”
Commissioner Scott McDonough announced, “My understanding is there may be a need for an alternative route, but at this point, I don’t think anyone wants to invest the money into that .... I don’t see a need to close the road. If they want to use the west side, why can’t we use gates and stop signs?”
“What’s the timeline?” Commissioner Tom Linkel wondered.
Nobbe said, “Next spring we’ll look at where we are. I have 15-20 people who want to base their aircraft there, and that excise tax goes to Franklin County. It isn’t going to create a lot more traffic because most are aircraft owners that use it as a hobby. Sometimes in the winter the planes sit in the hangar.”
Whittington added, “We have purchased land on the east side of the airport. That will have to be developed before we even think about going on the other side of the road. We wanted to inform people of what we’re trying to do and how we have an asset that may be valuable for a lot of people.”
District 55 state Rep. Cindy Ziemke revealed, “I’m a fan of this project because it would bring jobs and additional taxes to this area.”
District 42 state Sen. Jean Leising added, “Hillenbrand maintained a good relationship with the neighbors and what we’ve got to do is not create enemies.”
Amy Strub, who lives adjacent to the airport, reported, “I knew nothing about this until my neighbor told me .... I’m all for economic growth, but my concern is in the future when this becomes public and there are more employees and you’re developing more and doing the hangars. I want you guys to flourish, but if there are going to be any changes, please be forthcoming so if there are any issues, we can address you, and you can answer our questions.”
Diane Raver can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.