ELKHART — An Elkhart Municipal Airport terminal is getting a $565,000 parking ramp repair after two airplanes sank into the pavement in June.
The ramp was installed by the city in late 2018 at a cost of about $50,000, according to city attorney Lawrence Meteiver. Airport director Dave Pixey said the price was closer to $85,000.
The terminal near the ramp is leased from the city by Indiana Flight Center. The ramp is not part of the deal and is not exclusively used by IFC, and so the repair costs fall on the city. At the Monday City Council meeting, that struck Councilman David Henke, R-3, as unfair.
“We just can’t keep asking our taxpayers to be the ones really footing the bill of the overall project,” he said.
According to Indiana Flight Center president Brett Zierle, the jets that sank into the pavement were a 30,000-pound Bombardier Challenger and a 15,500-pound Cessna Citation XLS. The planes’ wheels sank slightly into the ramp on days when temperatures reached 75 degrees and 78 degrees Fahrenheit, he said.
“The asphalt is soft. It will not support the weight of those airplanes,” he said.
According to Meteiver, engineers have determined that a different type of asphalt mix is needed to support those types of planes.
Councilman Dwight Fish, D-4, argued that concrete would be better and last longer, but Meteiver said a concrete ramp was estimated to cost between $900,000 and $1 million.
The new asphalt mix will be of a type recommended by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to Meteiver.
“When the existing asphalt was laid down, those guidelines weren’t followed,” he said.
It is now too cold to repave the ramp, and so the project will not take wing until after winter.
Indiana Flight Center manages and maintains private airplanes for local businesses, according to Zierle. However, the parking ramp outside the terminal can be used by pilots who are not Indiana Flight Center customers, according to Meteiver.
Zierle said a repaired ramp would help accommodate people flying in for business or events related to the University of Notre Dame.
Henke said that since Indiana Flight Center leases the terminal for $12,000 a year, the city is putting itself in a situation where it will not break even on that deal for 47 years when it has to make improvements that cost half a million dollars.
“In no one’s business mind does this work,” he said. “I don’t know who negotiated the lease with you guys. I wouldn’t have done it.”
Pam Kurpgeweit, R-6, who is the City Council’s liaison to the Board of Aviation Commissioners, said that whether it is good business or not, the city needs to pay for the repair.
“We did lease the building, so we now have a liability to the leased person and the business, and we have an obligation to the people that come out and use this airport,” she said.
The new ramp is expected to last 20 years, according to Meteiver.
This article was updated on Oct. 24, as a previous version misrepresented the location of the parking ramp.
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