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Bellefonte allocates funds to airline ‘incentives’

BELLEFONTE — During last week’s Centre County Board of Commissioners meeting, they allocated $250,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding toward an incentive pool to attract an American Airlines Charlotte, N.C., connection to the University Park Airport.

At Monday night’s Bellefonte Borough Council meeting, the borough pledged its support. Council approved, by a nearly-unanimous vote, to pledge $1,500 toward an “incentive package.”

“This money, just FYI, is only contingent upon American Airlines actually committing to these additional flights,” said council president Joanne Tosti-Vasey.

The idea is to bring connecting flights to Charlotte’s International Airport. There would be a minimum of 12 flights per week, they said. The ARPA allocation was approved unanimously.

Council member Frank Halderman questioned the $1,500 contribution.

“I wonder why we have to add anything to (the $250,000),” Halderman said.

Tosti-Vasey explained the contribution.

“In order to further attract American Airlines, they need to see that the communities within the area also are supporting this,” Totsi-Vasey said.

Council member Doug Johnson, who is on the board of the Airport Authority, explained it further.

“It’s more impressive to American Airlines that they see the communities want the service. Our $1,500 donation is really quite small compared to the other municipalities. They actually were looking for $2,000 to $2,500 from Bellefonte Borough, so we’re really on the low end,” Johnson noted.

Other municipalities taking part include Patton Township, State College Borough, College Township and Harris Township.

“We’re hoping that Penn State chips in some additional funds. That could bring the package up, close to $500,000,” Johnson said.

Bellefonte Borough manager Ralph Stewart believes that more flights would be good for the entire Centre Region, including the borough.

“The Airport Authority is actually going to waive fees for the next few years. There’s a cash package up front and then there is the waiving of fees that the airport would ordinarily collect. They think that, together, it would be enough to get these extra flights into the community, which would hopefully help everybody,” Stewart said.

Johnson said that the Airport Authority has been wanting this type of service.

“This is a service … we’ve been trying to attract American (Airlines) for a number of years. Airlines are very, very selective when it comes to providing service. … It is a small price to pay. It shows a community effort. I think it’s money well invested,” Johnson said.

Halderman was the lone council member to vote against the contribution.

Bellefonte Borough Council will meet again at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 4. The meeting will be held in person at council chambers and masks are required. The meeting will also be streamed live through the borough website via C-NET.

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