Up in the air
County airport to be closed for at least 20 days during 2015 reconstruction projects

By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff

Oct. 15, 2014

An aircraft takes off from the Waukesha County Airport Tuesday afternoon.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA - Waukesha County Airport will be closed for at least 20 days next year due to construction on two new hangars, and it won’t have the use of its main runway for three months as it undergoes pavement renovations.

According to the 2015 capital projects plan, the county has set aside $540,000 for upgrades to the Terminal Building and Control Tower, and another $140,000 to complete a ramp expansion “to accommodate the construction of additional corporate aircraft hangars.”

Plans for the hangars have not been finalized, but the construction is expected to begin in 2015.

Waukesha Director of Public Works Allison Bussler told the county’s Finance Committee Tuesday that the new hangars will be the first such additions to the airport, also known as Crites Field, in several years, calling the project a “big movement for us” while estimating they could bring in as much as $45,000 annually to the county in revenue.

The prospect of closing the airport temporarily, however, has left some of its tenants less than pleased.

“We have heard some pushback from some of our tenants who are paying us rent every month to be at a closed airport,” Bussler said. “We are working hard to keep our customers during this time period because we know some of them will be going temporarily to Mitchell Field or other places. We are doing our best to sell this as an opportunity.”

The Waukesha County Airport will be closed for at least 20 days in 2015
during construction projects.

Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Airport Operations Manager Kurt Stanich has worked with fellow airport managers from across the country whom he says have offered suggestions on ways for the county to keep its customers from relocating permanently. Two possibilities mentioned included a grand reopening of the airport or a one-month discount on tenants’ rent, he said.

Stanich and his staff aggressively market the airport, he said, not just to its current tenants, but also to any other potential customers in the area.

Bussler said some of the county’s more “sophisticated” business partners at Crites Field have expressed their understanding that the renovations to the runway and the potential new hangars are what’s best for the airport’s long-term usability.

The reconstruction to the 5,850-foot concrete runway 10/28, which was announced earlier this year, will allow he pavement to handle heavier loads from aircraft. This means planes will be able to carry and purchase more fuel, which combined with land use accounts for approximately 75 percent of the airport’s annual revenue, said Stanich.

“Right now with the runway that we have, a lot of the business jets are weight-restricted, so they take lower fuel amounts,” he said. “With the reconstruction we will go from 66,000 pounds of landing weight up to 100,000. So a lot of these jets can take more fuel than they are now.”

www.waukeshacounty.gov

Email: mmasterson@conleynet.com