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State of New Jersey moves to acquire family-owned airportState of New Jersey moves to acquire family-owned airport

<BR><SPAN class=twodeck>ASN volunteer instrumental in arranging state's involvement</SPAN><BR><SPAN class=twodeck>ASN volunteer instrumental in arranging state's involvement</SPAN>

New Jersey state officials have stepped into a long-running feud between the owners of Solberg-Hunterdon Airport and Readington Township, entering a signed letter of agreement for the state to purchase the airport for a fair market value of $22 million. The township had begun proceedings to condemn the airport and assume control of it.

AOPA Airport Support network volunteer Simeon Hitzel played a critical role in bringing the state into the negotiations and in keeping both pilots and the public involved in the process. Some state officials called Hitzel's involvement "key" to making the deal.

The sale is not a done deal yet but shows what can be accomplished with a vocal ASN volunteer acting as advocate and organizing support in the community.

The deal between the Solberg family, which owns the airport, and the state still faces some hurdles. First, it is contingent upon securing federal funds for the airport. Second, Readington Township could go to court to challenge the state's acquisition. While the township might have a strong court case, it would face the $22 million fair market value now established by the state, which might make condemnation too expensive.

In addition, the state has attempted to sweeten the deal for the township by scrapping Solberg's previously announced plans to extend his runway to 4,800 feet. Instead, the state plans to pave the entire length of the 3,700-foot runway, which is currently only 3,000 feet paved.

The state is prevented by state law from day-to-day running of the airport and would have to put the management contract up for bid.

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