Carroll board won't pursue commuter service to BWI

July 28, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

A divided Board of County Commissioners decided yesterday to pass on the possibility of state-subsidized air service between Westminster and Baltimore-Washington International Airport, a proposal that might have attracted businesses to Carroll.

"The dollars just aren't there," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier, who voted against the proposal with Commissioner Donald I. Dell. "If the airport were making money now, maybe we could look at expanding out, but it just doesn't seem viable right now."

Scheduled air service between Carroll County Regional Airport north of Westminster and BWI would have cost the county at least $60,000 a year.

The county airport operates at a loss. Last year, it cost taxpayers about $83,000.

"Although there could be some economic benefit down the road, my recommendation has to be based upon some immediate benefit to [the county], and I'm not seeing it," said Gary Horst, who oversees the airport. "Frankly, I'm having a hard time recommending we spend $60,000 to get it up and running."

The Maryland Aviation Administration estimates that outlying communities could see a tenfold increase in the economic impact of their regional airports if they offer commuter service to BWI.

After two public meetings and nearly an hour of debate, the commissioners accepted Horst's recommendation. The vote was 2-1.

"I feel we should take the next step in the planning process," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, who favored moving forward with the proposal. "It wouldn't cost us anything, and we'd be able to get more details."

Communities that express interest in applying for state funds to establish service will go to a state planning meeting this fall, where the aviation administration will determine which areas are capable of supporting the service.

Several communities, including Cumberland, Hagerstown and Frederick, have expressed interest in establishing regularly scheduled flights to BWI.

The deadline for a municipality to express interest is Monday.

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