EKU to submit bid for management of airport


Jan. 27--RICHMOND -- Eastern Kentucky University may bid to become the fixed-based operator (FBO) for the Madison Airport, which is jointly owned the governments of Madison County, Richmond and Berea.

The airport's previous FBO ceased to operate the facility on Dec. 31, and the county has announced it soon will request proposals for a new operator.

EKU's aviation program is probably the airport's largest user, and assuming operation of the facility would be a logical step, university President Doug Whitlock told the board of regents Wednesday.

The board approved the president to draft a proposal.

Whitlock reported on a meeting he and other state university presidents and governing-body chairs had with Gov. Steve Beshear on Monday.

Although Congress did not grant a second round of "stimulus" funds to the states, Kentucky could receive $126 million in funds for education from the federal government this year by maintaining the same level of appropriations as the previous year, Whitlock said.

Although the state had planned to cut education spending in the first year of the current biennium, money intended for the second year would be brought forward so the state could qualify for the federal money, he said.

EKU's share of the funds would be about $750,000.

If state revenues continue to grow, the governor told the educators, he hoped a drop in funding could be avoided next year.

Dustin McCoy, an EKU alumnus who chairs the university's endowment committee, reported via telephone that its investments had realized a 10-percent gain in value during the past year as the stock market had improved.

Gifts to the endowment also has risen 10 percent, McCoy said, and the number of donors was up 2 percent at the fiscal year's mid point.

If the economy improves sufficiently in the next few years, Whitlock said he hoped the university could launch a major fundraising campaign.

The Lexington firm of Sherman Carter Barnhart has been retained to determine the feasibility of building a hotel and conference center off Lancaster Road between EKU's performing arts center and the Perkins Building, the university's current conference center, the president said.

Because it also will be used to help teach hotel management by EKU's college of business and technology, it will be known as a hotel/learning center, he said.

The project will benefit from lessons learned by the state's failed attempt to construct a hotel at the Kentucky Horse Park, Whitlock said.

The university's only contribution to the project would be the leasing of land, Whitlock said, and EKU would retain the right to approve the name of the facility.

If constructed, the hotel/learning center likely would be connected to the Perkins building and performing arts center by covered walkways, he said.

The Hummel Planetarium attached to the Perkins building is "an under-utilized resource" that could help attract conferences to the campus, according to the consultant, which already has indicated that data are pointing toward feasibility of the project.

The administration has changed the name of what has previously been called the Student Services Building to the Student Success Building, Whitlock said, to underscore the goal that student services, such as counseling and computer laboratories, are intended to attain.

University revenues have reached 77.66 percent of the budget, Deborah Newsom, vice president for financial affairs, told the board. At the same point the previous year, they were at 72.64 percent.

Expenditures also are running ahead of the past year, however, 51.66 percent, compared to 47.6 percent.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 624-6622.