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County airport officials will utilize $620K in fed money

Morning Journal/Deanne Johnson Members of the current board of the Columbiana County Airport Authority board stand on the taxiway at the airport on County Airport Road (front from left) Tim Ohara, John Sayle, Joe Diloreto, (back from left) Frank Ungaro, Dan Thompson, Mike Diloreto and Jim Pusateri.

EAST LIVERPOOL – Nestled in the hills of Madison Township northwest of East Liverpool, the Columbiana County Airport provides services to local flying enthusiasts and others coming to Columbiana County.

But the airstrip and airport facilities were not always what they are today and that is thanks in part to members of the Columbiana County Airport Authority board, including two members retiring this June with more than 60 years of combined experience.

John Sayle is retiring with 42 years on the board after being appointed in 1979 and Joe Diloreto has spent more than 20 years on the board.

This year, the Columbiana County Airport Authority will receive $620,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration to use toward the rehabilitation of about 2,000 feet of the existing taxiway A and to maintain the structural integrity at the airport. Before any paving work is done, fuel tanks need to be moved in order to keep the airport compliant with FFA regulations.

But this was not the first time the FAA has provided money for improvements at the county airport.

Sayle said when he came there was truly little there and no one to operate the airport. He came from New York City and rented a space for his airplane for $15. Over the years they have rebuilt the whole thing.

“This is a good airport authority,” Sayle said, “because everybody’s a pilot. Everybody has the airport’s interest at heart…hardworking group. We’ve got it in great shape.”

Sayle said the State of Ohio bought the airport in 1965 and it was only a grass strip. It was paved in 1968. It cost only $216,000 to build the airport back then and the state of Ohio paid 50 percent of it with the county paying the rest. Board members remember a time when there was no heat in the airport building and the windows were boarded up.

Through the years up until 2013, Sayle said they have obtained $3.86 million in funding for building and upkeep at the airport and in the last eight years there has been another grant nearly every year. He believes they have spent about $5 million toward the facilities through the years with the commissioners sometimes assisting with additional matching funding for the grants they receive.

“The airport is important to Columbiana County,” Sayle said. “We’re always looking for business development… People looking to do their business don’t come on the bus, they fly in. If you don’t have an airport, you’re not even a contender for the companies who are looking for a place to locate.”

Through the years, the board has emphasized keeping everything up as much as possible. The current project is to keep the airport FAA compliant as regulations continue to change. The Airport Authority has built hangars to rent out through the years and have proposed building more in the future as more pilots look for a home for the planes.

Sayle said for every nickel they spend on the airport they are able to leverage 95 percent more from other sources.

Diloreto said he got involved in the county airport because his son’s interests in flying and owning a plane. His son is the current chairman of the Airport Authority, Mike Diloreto.

“We’ve had a long history here,” said the younger Diloreto. “I want to thank these two for their years of service and John for really being a mentor when it comes to here at the airport and how things should be done. John has been the glue that has kept this place together.”

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