State May Fund Replacement Hangars

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In an uncharacteristically generous move by a state aviation official (and one that might get him in trouble with colleagues in other states) John Roeller is trying to convince the Florida Department of Transportation to pay $3 million for hangars to house planes displaced when a Tampa-area airport closes in October. Pasco County is selling Tampa Bay Executive Airport to an unnamed developer and owners of the 100 or so airplanes there have until Oct. 1 to find them new homes. The hangars would likely be built at the three closest publicly owned airports at Zephyrhills, Clearwater and Hernando Airport. "That's our effort now, to try to scrape up money to fill that gap," said Roeller, the state DOT's representative for the Tampa area. Just because he's asking doesn't mean he'll get the money, however. Also, local authorities are going to have to come up with at least 20 percent of the cost of the hangars. Closure of the airport didn't come as much of a surprise to the aircraft owners. They've known for some time that the county had it on the market. Roeller said airports are an important draw for businesses, but Pasco County spokeswoman Mary Jane Stanley said Tampa Bay Executive hasn't been a factor in luring new businesses. While most of the displaced pilots are looking for alternatives, Bill Stewart is, instead, looking for a buyer for his plane. "It's left a lot of people out in the cold," he said.