MASCOUTAH, Ill. (AP) - Costs linked with the struggling MidAmerica St. Louis Airport have piled up for county taxpayers, with more than $1.6 million spent since 2008 on consultants and other fees, a newspaper reported Sunday.
The Belleville News-Democrat (http://bit.ly/pVBPOX ) says those fees incurred between January 2008 and July 2011 include travel and lodging costs associated with promoting the airport in the St. Clair County town of Mascoutah, about 25 miles east of St. Louis.
The airport has had trouble getting off the ground as a passenger and cargo hub since opening in 1998. With passenger service gone since 2009, promoters want to establish MidAmerica as an international cargo hub for business with China.
The county's public building commission chairman told the newspaper that an important announcement is coming soon showing that consultant fees have been worth it. Chairman Rich Sauget Sr. told the paper that "all our work will come to fruition very shortly."
"We are working with some very strong eventual clients, or partners or leasees for our airport," he said, but declined to elaborate, saying the information is "proprietary."
The newspaper said consultants who've worked for the airport include E. Gene Redmon of Young Tiger Consultants in O'Fallon. He received $16,000 in fees in 2009, the newspaper said.
"I think the Chinese are feeling a subtle pressure to establish the cross-trade stuff, and rather than limiting it strictly to Chinese airlines, I think they're going to open up and let in some of the other competition in the marketplace," Redmon said. "I think (MidAmerica) is going to find success within the next year."
Jim Nations, the building commission's vice chairman, said the county is targeting importers and exporters, and that consultants have allowed the airport to be "still in the game" in China. "Without their input we wouldn't have been."
But he acknowledged that it's hard to measure success without tangible results - having exporters and importers either set up shop at the airport or ship goods through it.
"And up until that point you haven't achieved anything," he told the paper.
The county-owned airport was built in 1998 as an alternative to St. Louis' Lambert International Airport. Early on, supporters also hoped to bring in cargo business, too. The airport had trouble attracting and keeping airlines and lost its last commercial passenger carrier, Allegiant Airlines, in early 2009.
Information from: Belleville News-Democrat, http://www.bnd.com