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County applies for $1.2m in airport funds

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Jefferson County once again is seeking a government grant to improve its airport.

County Administrator Robert F. Hagemann III said officials submitted a Regional Economic Development Council request for $1.2 million to build an 8,000-square-foot business center at Watertown International Airport, Dexter. The county would pitch in another $200,000.

The business center would house the airport’s fixed-base operator — a county-run outfit that provides fuel to private and commercial aircraft and services such as bathrooms and showers for pilots of private planes.

“That’s what you find in an FBO that doesn’t exist right now,” Mr. Hagemann said.

The application, which was sent before Monday’s deadline, is another example of the county’s renewed focus on the airport. In November, American Eagle’s 44-seat airplanes began flying to Chicago, replacing a smaller airplane that wasn’t delivering the passenger load the county had hoped for.

In 2011, the county won a $1.5 million grant through the same regional council to build a larger airport hangar for its private operations. Construction should start in the fall, Mr. Hagemann said.

The fixed-base operator has the potential to earn money for the county with gasoline sales and rental space, meaning that eventually, less cash will come out of taxpayers’ pockets to pay for airport operations.

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