- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 20, 2014

PERU, Ind. (AP) - Local officials worry that a proposed electric transmission line could block future runway construction at northern Indiana’s Grissom Air Reserve Base and harm economic development in the area.

Miami County commissioners are asking project leaders to drop a route that would place the transmission lines and towers about 2 miles south of Grissom’s runway, the Kokomo Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/TpYCIr ).

Jim Tidd, executive director of the Miami County Economic Development Authority, said initial studies show the height of the transmission towers wouldn’t disrupt current air traffic at the base, but could prohibit construction of another runway needed to help attract more businesses.

“For us to be successful in fully developing Grissom, we’re going to have to look at building a secondary runway,” he said. “We have a great asset in already having one that’s 12,500 feet long, but the problem is this: It’s a single runway.”

Tidd said a second runway would help accommodate Dean Baldwin Painting, which began painting and servicing commercial aircraft last year in a renovated airplane hangar near the base about midway between Indianapolis and South Bend.

The county spent $13.8 million to expand and renovate the hangar for the company.

Tidd said the county is trying to also attract other aviation businesses, like heavy aircraft maintenance and aircraft interior modification. County officials have plans to eventually build a second runway to ensure businesses have flight access in cases such as the current closure of Grissom’s runway until July for repair work, he said.

Four routes have been proposed for the transmission line project between Greentown in Howard County to Reynolds in White County. The project is a joint effort between Northern Indiana Public Service Co., Duke Energy and American Electric Power aimed at improving electrical grid reliability in the area.

NISPCO spokesman Nick Meyer said the companies will select the route that causes the least amount of disturbance for residents and the affected communities. He said a final route is expected to be selected sometime in June.

The potential routes could take the line either north or south of Grissom, but Tidd said he hoped the line is steered away from the base.

“Given that there are so many other potential routes, we’re asking them not to consider this one,” Tidd said. “If they choose the route near Grissom, it’s going to be hard to build around that line, so we’re saying let’s get coordinated now and eliminate this route.”

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Information from: Kokomo Tribune, http://www.ktonline.com