Massport, Worcester Regional Airport Continue Talking

As city officials continue talks with Massport about extending the state agency's contract to run Worcester Regional Airport, neighbors of the underused facility are closely following any developments.

City Manager Michael V. O'Brien has said negotiations with the Massachusetts Port Authority are ongoing but little is publicly known about the status of the talks, including whether an outright sale of the property to the state agency is in the offing. The city is expected to spend about $1.8 million this fiscal year to cover deficits associated with the underutilized airport.

Massport spokesman Richard Walsh yesterday declined to give specifics on the city talks.

"We can't comment on ongoing negotiations," he said.

Joan Crowell, who was among the vocal protesters several years ago when a new access road was being proposed for the airport, yesterday said she would welcome a larger role for Massport at the facility.

"Worcester isn't prepared to run the airport and we can't afford the operating expenses," Mrs. Crowell said. If Massport buys the airport, she added, the agency is likely to have greater success in attracting major airlines to the site than the city has.

"I'm not surprised they haven't done that much even with the operating agreement," she said.

William Randell, a Holden resident who maintains a blog discussing issues surrounding Worcester Regional Airport (), said he believes the city will end up signing a long-term lease with Massport for $1 a year, which will include the state agency taking over the facility's operating deficit.

While a long-term commitment by Massport could be good for the airport, Mr. Randell said he was concerned that the city apparently did not conduct a broader search for prospective airport suitors. A wider search could have yielded a more lucrative payday for the city, he said, likening the talks to selling one's home.

"We pigeon-holed ourselves into one buyer," he said.

Still, Mr. Randell said he was optimistic about the airport's future.

"It's going to be a big improvement," he said.

Daniel E. Dick, who has been outspoken about environmental issues connected with the airport, said the facility could play an important role to the region.

"I very much like to have that airport," he said, recalling his flights as a passenger. "I just hope we have an operating airport to serve the city and serve Central Massachusetts."

He said he would welcome "any responsible public body" at the airport, but said he would rather see the facility leased than sold. An outright sale would eliminate any public oversight, he added.

Mr. Dick said there may be some non-aviation uses for the acreage as well.

"There's this monster piece of property on top of a hill that could be used for wind energy," he suggested. "I wonder who's ever studied the full potential of that property."



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