U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler made sure his itinerary during his swing Wednesday through Boyle County included one of the smaller airports in his district.
Chandler, who represents Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District, was at the Danville-Boyle County Airport to survey what he said was at risk during the recent shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration. It was one of many partisan disputes Chandler said were avoidable.
“It had to do with funding of smaller airports like this that don’t just impact this county, but surrounding counties and communities,” Chandler said. “You are not only looking at loss of business for an airport, you also risk impacting economic development in this area.”
The shutdown began when Congress recently left Washington without an agreement on legislation to continue paying the FAA's bills. It meant furloughs for many workers and a halt to construction projects and subsidies for commuter flight services at small airports.
Airport board Chairman Stuart Powell, a Danville businessman, has long been a master of corraling state and federal money to build what is now a relatively small but bustling airport. He said the airport was not directly impacted by the shutdown but acknowledged federal funds are essential to some of the projects that can continue its growth.
Unlike some other small airports, Powell and the rest of the local airport board are less interested in propping up routes to larger airports and more interested in making the operation here self-sufficient.
Currently, they are seeking land for an extended safety zone at the end of one runway that will allow them to go after more federal funding for an additional corporate hangar. To get the land, the airport needs to acquire a designated agricultural property to swap with the owner of the land at the end of the runway.
Chandler, who also made a morning radio appearance on WHIR and visited officials at the Boyle County Courthouse, will be in the state for most of the month until he heads back to Washington after Labor Day. When he gets there, he knows some of the same thorny issues will be facing Congress, including the FAA situation.
Chandler said he wished colleagues interested in slashing funds understood that eliminating funds for smaller airports was an example of indiscriminately cutting $1 of spending for something that could make $10 for a business. Chandler, who voted for the House version of the compromise on the federal debt ceiling, said he understands the public frustration over that debate and other squabbles in Washington.
“I think people want politicians to stop screaming at each other,” Chandler said. “You hear so much more from the far left and right now that you don’t realize there are people willing to compromise absolutes for the good of everyone. There are many of us whose No. 1 principle is we believe in the country and want it to be successful.”