Board took right course on terminal

THE SHEBOYGAN COUNTY BOARD wisely turned back an effort last week to remove the possible construction of a terminal building at the Sheboygan County Memorial Airport from the long-range capital projects list.

The estimated $3 million terminal was one of two dozen projects on the five-year schedule of large cost projects the board was being asked to adopt.

The nearly $35 million worth of projects, ranging from roof replacements and HVAC upgrades to the new transportation complex in the town of Plymouth, still must have final funding included in an annual county budget before any dollars could be spent, either this year or any year through 2022, the final year of the five-year capital projects plan.

That still didn’t stop several supervisors from seeking to eliminate the terminal building from the project plan – even though it was not listed for final consideration and funding until the 2019-2022 time frame, more than a year away.

This despite the fact that two-thirds of the funding for the building would come from the state and federal governments, with the county only required to bond for $1 million of the estimated total cost.

And despite the fact that the terminal building is being requested by the major users of the county airport – one of the busiest private airports in the state – ranging from the Kohler Co. to Lakeland University.

Those opposing the terminal building argued that it would need to be staffed by full-time county employees – not likely, as the airport’s fixed base operator would staff it as part of their contracted duties with the county – or that it would not attract an airline to provide regular service at the airport – which is not the intention and, although it would be nice were it to happen, is not the reason it would be built.

The airport has played a significant role in helping the county keep major employers here and in attracting new employers. A new terminal building would enhance that benefit the county enjoys over many other areas it competes with for new and existing business and commerce.

It would also provide the capability to offer customs services right at the airport, something that is not available now.

Instead, airport users who want to bring goods or people into the county by air from another country must first fly to Green Bay or Milwaukee to clear customs there, then fly on to Sheboygan. That is time-consuming, counter-productive and not conducive to serving or enhancing local business and industry.

By keeping the terminal on the capital projects list, the board provided time for the project to be reviewed in greater detail and depth by its Transportation Committee, as well as time for the proposal to be studied, analyzed and refined to make sure it is cost-effective and efficient.

Any future actual funding of the project will have to be fully justified, supported and approved by the full board, as it should be.

Had it been taken out of the capital projects list prematurely, it might well have proven an opportunity lost at who knows how great a cost ultimately.

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