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Airport authority OKs increased budge

| Saturday, May 5, 2012, 6:29 a.m.

Westmoreland County Airport Authority on Tuesday adopted a budget of about $1.9 million for 2006.

The spending plan, passed unanimously at the board's regular meeting yesterday, represents an increase of nearly 2.5 percent over last year's and shows a slight decrease in the amount contributed by the county.

The individual budgets for two airports operated by the authority are $1.54 million for the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport near Latrobe and $364,593 for the Rostraver Airport.

Arnold Palmer shows expenses of nearly $1.53 million for 2006, an increase of 1.1 percent over the previous budget. Rostraver's total expenses are projected at $364,593, up from $335,948 in 2005.

According to the latest budget, Arnold Palmer's revenue includes $337,821 from airfield fees and hangar/building rentals, a projected increase of nearly $30,000. Another $784,490 is coming from the county, down slightly from the $785,914 allocation received in 2005.

Concessions are projected to yield $240,079.

Rostraver's revenues include $279,692 in hangar and building revenues, up from $237,465 last year.

In another matter, Executive Director Gene Lakin said air traffic control tower costs have dropped from $274,237 in 2001 to a projected $94,300 in 2006.

Lakin said the authority's involvement with the Federal Aviation Administration's contract tower program was the reason for the cost decrease. The program replaces federal employees with nonfederal employees.

The federal government currently pays about 80 percent of the authority's total related costs. Lakin said the hope is to one day to reach 100 percent.

"We may do it in a year or two," he said of the 100 percent benchmark.

The amount of the federal contribution is based on a formula that considers total operations and operations of jets, military, commercial and charter flights.

All federal contract controllers are FAA-certified air traffic controllers who meet the identical training and operating standards used by FAA controllers, according to a release from the contract tower program. Most contract controllers are retired military or FAA controllers.

In another matter, Arnold Palmer showed a slight decrease in 2005 in total traffic compared to 2004. But the 2005 number was greater than what was recorded in 2003 or 2002, authority records showed.

Last year, the total operations numbered 45,550. They were 46,345 in 2004.

The totals were 42,774 in 2003 and 42,708 in 2002.

Authority officials blamed the difference between the 2004 and 2005 numbers on increased fuel costs.

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