Facilities expansion continuing as Airport Authority seeks financing
As the Macon County Airport continues to develop the extension of its runway, the Airport Authority is now looking to increase its water supply. Obtaining the additional water supply is something Authority officials said they have been seeking since 2008.
At a recent meeting of the Airport Authority, Chairman Milles Gregory said that the current well water supply the Airport has is inadequate, and asked County Commissioner Bob Kuppers whether the county could extend its water supply from the Riverbend community, along Hwy. 28 North, to the airport property. With the additional water supply, Gregory said the airport would stand a much better chance of containing potential fires in the future.
Gregory said that Federal Aviation Authority funds are available to the airport to pay for obtaining the water. “I have talked to the FAA about this, and there is some money available for the airport that has been used in North Carolina that can get water to the airport,” said Gregory to Kuppers at the March 29 meeting.
Kuppers said that he was not sure how the county would react to the idea of running water access out past Riverbend to the airport, but that he would “look into it.” Kuppers also warned that nearby road construction by the DOT on Hwy. 28 will not be held up while waiting for a grant process for water rights-of-way to pass through their project.
While the FAA has expressed an interest in paying for the water project, Gregory said that federal funds would only pay to run a water line from Riverbend to the airport property line. Because the airport is not a county entity, additional funds would be needed to run the water supply from the property line to the airport itself.
According to Gregory, an estimate received in 2009 for the proposed project was $1.5 million, but now that county water supplies have been extended throughout the Riverbend community, running water to the airport would not cost nearly as much. Gregory said that the project could possibly cost $800-900,000. “We are working on it and hopefully we can get the money to do it,” he said.
According to a written statement by Airport engineer Eric Rysdon, who was absent from the meeting, there has been some progress on the runway extension.
Rysdon said in a letter to Gregory that the contractor of the project has shifted the runway threshold again to approximately 1,000 feet, reducing the overall runway length to just under 3,400 feet until the paving of the runway is completed, and runway markings are reapplied. “We all knew that was coming. It was a problem we were ready to have,” said Gregory.
The runway was reduced because the grade of the runway needed to be raised, according to Gregory. “We’re almost up to grade on the main part of the runway. We’re really, really close,” he said. “These boys are doing a heck of a good job.”
“The contractor and our inspector know that this is a critical time and will work diligently to complete this phase of the construction as quickly as possible,” Rysdon wrote. Once the displacement was executed in mid-March, Rysdon said that the contractor began removing the existing pavement in order to begin the grade changes to the runway to tie into the embankment already placed for the extension.
The extension is not complete yet, but according to Gregory, if the weather permits, the authority is hopeful that the project will be complete by the beginning of May.
Authority members also discussed expanding the construction of additional hangars. Authority member Harold Corbin said that the authority should begin seeking a loan to build a large hangar immediately, as county finance officer Evelyn Southard told Corbin that such an application would take at least three months to be processed. Time is of the essence, because Southard is scheduled to retire from her position in October.
The authority opted to begin the application process for a loan on the project as soon as possible. “We have a couple of people waiting on hangars,” said Corbin.
Franklin Mayor Joe Collins suggested that a bank would be less likely to loan money for such a project, if they were not provided some letters from potential hangar tenants interested in procuring hangar space, to show that they could generate revenue immediately. “We need to give them some assurance… I move forward to get all the letters, requests as we could,” said Joe Collins, attorney for the authority.
“Until we know exactly how much it’s going to cost us, it’s going to be kind of hard to give [tenants] a rate of monthly rent on these hangars,” said Gregory.
“If we build a hangar that can hold three planes, we could make more than enough off of the rent to make the payments,” said Corbin, stressing that time was of the essence.
Gregory noted that the first step of the hangar project was to pour the foundation for the hangars just near the main building, east of the runway.
A $118,000 grant was unanimously accepted by the Airport Authority that would largely pay for maintenance of the runway. The grant comes from the North Carolina Department of Administration
Funds from both the state and federal government are disbursed among the 76 airports in North Carolina, according to the amount of need, explained Gregory. He said that if the Authority can keep all of its project plans up to date, it “stands a better chance” of receiving the funds needed to assist in project development