By Tim Kane
Special to the Tribune
June 20, 2000

Illinois has awarded Lake in the Hills $1.3 million to begin a major expansion at the village-owned airport.

Calling it a key reliever airport, state officials said the Lake in the Hills Airport is a place where corporate aircraft and smaller planes can land, helping relieve congestion at O'Hare International Airport.

"It's a hefty chunk of money, and it's rare that we would spend more than half a million on any single airport," said Paul Kramer, of the state Department of Transportation's aeronautics division.

Kramer said the village must now match the grant with its own funds.

The money will be used to make the final payment for the airport property to Chicago-based Material Service Corp., the title holder, and toward other safety improvements, said Village President Scott Berg.

The improvements are part of a four-year, $10 million airport safety-improvement plan Lake in the Hills unveiled last year. Funding for the remainder of the project has yet to be worked out, but village officials expect to begin preliminary work at the airport this year.

The matching grant will help the village purchase the 28-acre airport for $842,000 from Material Service, which will be the village's final payment for the property. The village will spend about $1 million to acquire adjacent property so it can move the taxiway farther from the sole runway.

The money also will be used to purchase safety easements at the ends of the runway. About $125,000 will be spent on runway lights and a radio.

Berg said the next step is for the village to work out agreements with Crystal Lake, which controls land on both ends of the runways, and McHenry County, which owns Pyott Road.

The east end of the airport's runway is about 100 feet from busy Pyott Road, which has raised numerous safety concerns. It should be at least 300 feet away, said Ron Hudson, village engineer.

Berg said he supports a plan to move Pyott Road about 400 feet east to arc away from the runway, which he thinks can be done without reducing Pyott's current 50-m.p.h. speed limit. The village backed away from proposals for a longer runway after meeting strong resistance from Crystal Lake.

Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley said Monday the city would probably be receptive to the plan to move Pyott Road.

"We're meeting with Lake in the Hills on Wednesday, trying to hammer out an intergovernmental agreement," Shepley said. "The [Crystal Lake] City Council still has to vote on it, but I think this would be something we would support. I am glad they got their money. We want to see safety improvements."

Kramer said a study conducted three years ago at the Lake in the Hills Airport indicated that 43,000 takeoffs and landings take place there each year.

IDOT will spend $12 million this year on non-primary airports, Kramer said.