Airports have been the big target in our local blogosphere lately. In particular my Republican brethren have been targeting stimulus money being used to do some runway work at Jack Murtha's local airport in Pennsylvania. While the $800,000 going to Johnstown's 3 flight a day regional zit of an airport might seem like a bad use of funds and make for good fodder to be used to slam our Democratic Congress woman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, local airport funding issues continue to be ignored.
At the time of the hit pieces over at the War College I tried to highlight some of the wasteful spending happening in our own backyard including the $677 per passenger EAS (Essential Air Service) subsidies that had been going to Brookings Regional airport. This is the same funding which had originally been stopped but was eventually re-instated by John Thune though it currently sits unused because of the lack of an airline commitment to fly out of the airport. Also rarely mentioned was the $1.4 million in stimulus money given to Pierre to help build their new terminal.
I'll be the first to admit that Pierre is in dire need of a new airport and in fact a recent $200,000 study funded by a government grant came to that same conclusion. Anyone that has been to Pierre's airport can confirm that it is not the kind of first impression our state capitol would like to convey. With that said, $1.4 million from Uncle Sam would seem like a nice chunk to put towards the new terminal though some interesting info that I recently was made aware of regarding those tax dollars might make you go hmm.
It seems the only strings attached to the stimulus money is that it be used this year. The city of Pierre is not required to match it or show that they have the remaining funding in place to complete the project (they don't by the way). So what exactly will your $1.4 million buy you? In this case it will buy you a new parking lot and a foundation with utility hookups and not much else.
So as things stand right now. US taxpayers have given Pierre a brand new slab of concrete with no guarantee of much else though I am being told that every effort is being made to get the funding to add a few walls and a roof at some point in the future. Nice use of your money...
Oh and remember that $200,000 grant that funded the airport study? It seems that it did come with strings attached that could end up making the city of Pierre responsible for paying it back if they do not act on it's recommendations.