By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY — A bill that would establish an airport authority at Clark Regional Airport has passed out of the House of Representatives and is headed back to the Senate for final approval.
According to a press release, Senate Bill 535 passed through the House by a 93-4 vote Monday.
The bill would allow Clark County to establish the South Central Regional Airport Authority, replacing the current structure at the airport located in Clark County, the Board of Aviation Commissioners.
Creating an airport authority would allow the airport greater autonomy in promoting, marketing and developing the location. It would also allow the airport to accept money from a military reuse authority — a direct reference to nearby River Ridge Commerce Center — and to accept funding from area redevelopment districts.
Jeffersonville has a Tax Increment Finance district in River Ridge, and Sellersburg has another directly across from the planned expansion of the airport, both potential sources of additional income.
“The purpose of this bill is to grant control to local governments regarding the Clark County Regional Airport,” said Rep. Steven Stemler, D-Jeffersonville, who sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives, in a press release. “The Indiana General Assembly is giving Clark County the legal option to adopt this legislation. Local control is important on this issue.”
Provisions in the bill require the airport authority’s actions to be subject to approval by the Clark County Council. All bonding and budgets for the airport would still go through the council for approval.
Additional changes to the bill authored by Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, since it passed out of the senate included a reduction in the number of airport authority members. The board will include four or five members, depending on the discretion of the county.
“Since a large portion of the airport resides in Sellersburg, this bill also allows one member to be appointed by the town council of Sellersburg,” Stemler said in the release. “We felt it was only fair to give the town a voice regarding airport-related issues.”
The effect of the legislation, should it be enacted, is hoped to be improved economic development in Southeast Indiana.
“The Clark County Regional Airport is an important part of the economy in our corner of the state,” Stemler said in the release. “Senate Bill 535 links in with plans for economic growth in the area by giving administrative authority to the people who understand the impact of their decisions best.”
Grooms had previously said by creating an airport authority, the region’s transportation capabilities would be improved and would serve as a magnet for more businesses.
Expansion plans at the airport are under way to extend the runway to 7,000 feet; the Clark County Commissioners have committed to building a connector road from River Ridge to the airport; railroad access is available nearby; the planned east-end bridge will improve interstate connectivity; and with the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville providing access to the Ohio River, a full transportation network would be created.