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July 2014

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County airport's control tower on final list for closing

The list is now official and it wasn't good news for eight airports in Wisconsin.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced today that the airport control towers at Waukesha County's Crites Field and Milwaukee County's Timmerman Field on Milwaukee's northwest side are among the 149 that will begin a four-week closing process beginning April 7.

The other airport control towers that will close in the state are in Mosinee, Eau Claire, Kenosha, Janesville, La Crosse and Oshkosh.

The tower closures are a result of the FAA having to cut nearly $600 million from its budget as part of $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts.

According to a release from the FAA, the agency kept 24 federal contract towers open that had been previously proposed for closure as well as an additional 16 towers under the "cost share" program.

The Waukesha County Airport is part of the federal contract tower program.

Six workers will lose their jobs due to the closure.

The airport is owned and operated by Waukesha County with the County Public Works Department responsible for budgeting and oversight of the airport and the airport management team functions as a division of this department

Waukesha County Airport Manager Kurt Stanich said he worried about safety at airports that would lose control towers.

Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas has the same concerns.

"In particular, we're the (fourth) busiest in the state and we're No. 1 in general aviation in the state so this airport is very important to the economic vitality to a lot of Waukesha County businesses that utilize it," Vrakas said.

Vrakas said since first hearing about the control tower on the list of potential cuts last month, he has done what he could to keep it open.

He said earlier this month he traveled to Washington, D.C., to address local and state congressmen

"I know our congressmen are working with us to avoid this from happening and I remain hopeful that we can turn this around," Vrakas said. "I told them the towers they're talking about closing are very efficient and these towers have a better safety record and less expensive to operate (than FAA towers).

"This move by the FAA is not very well thought out."

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