Outagamie Co. Board OKs airport upgrades, land sale for convention ctr.

APPLETON – The Outagamie County Regional Airport is looking to spend $140 million on upgrades.

The Outagamie County Board voted Tuesday night to support the plan.

The estimated $140 million would come mostly in the form of state and federal taxpayer dollars.

The plans include building a general aviation ramp where planes could refuel, lengthening an existing runway, building a new business park, and putting in a rental car facility that is separate from the main building.

All of the projects are dependent on state and federal funding. The changes would begin in 2015 and run through 2020.

“We view ourselves as an economic driver of this community. So we feel it’s extremely important for us to continue to reach out and pursue these types of projects to maintain that status in the community,” said Outagamie County Regional Airport Director Abe Weber.

The airport plan was just one item on a busy agenda for the county board.

An Appleton exhibition center is one step closer to a reality. Tuesday night the Outagamie County Board voted to sell the city a piece of county land to potentially house the project.

Appleton city leaders are hoping to build an exhibition center on the county-owned parking lot behind the Radisson Paper Valley.

The county board voted 29-6 to sell the lot to the city for about $2 million. The vote came after city leaders and business owners spoke in support of the plan.

“They’re looking at this as really holding a lot of potential for their businesses. They’re the ones who are really taking a risk,” Mayor Tim Hanna told FOX 11.

Hanna said the potentially $28 million exhibition center could bring more than $6 million into the city per year.

But some county supervisors are skeptical.

“In no way at all am I against an exhibition center in our community. In fact, I believe it would be a very good economic block for our community. I just believe this happens to be the wrong location,” said Supervisor Barney Lemanski.

Lemanski told FOX 11 too much money has been put into downtown Appleton. He said building an exhibition center somewhere else is a better idea.

“North of College Avenue. I believe we could look at helping out the businesses that are on Wisconsin Ave, as well as Memorial and Richmond Streets, Badger Street. There’s ailing businesses,” Lemanski explained.

Hanna said the center needs to be downtown. He told us there’s been talk about building it somewhere on College Avenue, but that the lot behind the Radisson Paper Valley is the best option.

“If we build it across the street, on College Avenue, this will forever remain a parking lot. So there’s more upside to doing it here and more potential. If we do this right it will spin off,” Hanna explained.

Hanna told us Tuesday’s vote is just one step. He said a lot more needs to be done before a proposal to build the exhibition comes to the city council.

“We’ve got work to do on what does the governance of this place look like? And work on some of those terms with the Radisson, that’s going to be very important,” explained the mayor.

The city will also provide another parking lot and street parking to the county as part of the land sale agreement.

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