Airport Authority planning preparation of site for construction of new hangars
Note from the founder: In previous Macon news articles, it has been discussed that the Iotla School they plan to tear down and take the dirt from for the air field is still part of the same complex of the air field. How many bodies do they plan to disturb from under the school?
Thursday, 15 July 2010
The wetland area east of the terminal building and south of the runway is being considered as a site for new hangars at the Macon County Airport. Plans are still in preliminary stages and funding has yet to be obtained, but fill dirt from the nearby Iotla Valley school project may be used to prepare the site.
By Christopher Carpenter
Milles Gregory says new hangars for the Macon County Airport have been a long time coming.
“We’ve been talking about it for the last five years or more,” said Gregory who is chairman of the Airport Authority. “If we get some money, we’re going to do it.”
Finally, preliminary planning for the hangars seems to have been spurred by nearby construction. The airport’s neighbor needs to get rid of some dirt which the airport would like to use to fill in the site to be used for the planned hangars. At the June 29 meeting, members of the Airport Authority discussed whether or not to accept dirt from the new Iotla Valley K-4 school project scheduled to begin construction this fall.
Gregory says that as much as 20,000 cubic yards of dirt will be taken from the school site. After debris is removed, that will leave 10,000 to 12,000 cubic yards that will be good for packing.
“If we agree to accept the fill dirt, it will save a lot of money,” he said. Gregory noted that accepting the dirt would be a benefit to the school system as well as the airport. The airport, which is adjacent to the school property, is much closer than the landfill, which would save in transportation costs. In addition, diverting the dirt from the landfill would lessen those costs to the county.
At the meeting, Authority members discussed various issues that would have to be considered before accepting the dirt, including selection of a specific site and preparation of the site. Franklin Mayor Joe Collins, an Authority member, said that it was premature to start looking for funding for the hangars, but that plans could be made including a rough estimate of the services and fees associated with the new facilities.
Authority Vice-Chairman Harold Corbin was enthusiastic about starting the planning process. “Let’s get this thing going,” he said.
Eric Rysdon, engineering consultant from the firm W.K. Dickson, also encouraged the Authority to begin planning in order to take full advantage of the materials.
Whether or not new hangars are built in the future, the dirt could be useful to the airport which has been looking at ways of extending the safety area around the runway.
“What we’re doing is beginning to look at where hangars could possibly go,” Rysdon said in a recent phone interview. Hangars are a current need and have been in the airport’s long term plans for some time, he said, but added that it could be years before any actual construction begins.
According to Neil Hoppe, co-owner of Franklin Aviation who operates the Macon County Airport, between 45 and 50 individuals are on a waiting list for hangar space in Macon County.
“It’s a combination of local people that have planes, and we get a lot of transient traffic in here,” explained Hoppe. Hoppe, who leases the airport facilities from the Airport Authority, said that the decision to expand hangar space is not his.
A plan is also being considered that would keep the new hangars under the management of the Authority, said Hoppe. The authority would then be able to directly collect revenue from use of the facility.
“It would still be a benefit to me,” he acknowledged, “because if they bring more airplanes to be based here, I sell fuel, and we do repairs. So it’s a win-win situation.”
Runway extension project
The runway extension project at the airport continues to move forward. The authority hopes to start the bidding process for the project some time in July, said Rysdon. The extension and associated safety area improvements are necessary to bring the facility into compliance with federal safety standards.
The project has generated some controversy within the community. Various concerns have been raised over the increase in air traffic the improved facility would bring. Also, some have worried that the improvements would pave the way for a large industrial park or other industrial or business development in Iotla Valley. When an archeological survey uncovered a wealth of artifacts in the extension area, some felt the project should be halted.
Extensive plans and impact assessment for the improvements submitted to the US Army Corps of Engineers are now awaiting final approval, but more than $2 million in grant funding has already been secured, and at the May 25 meeting of the Authority, it was announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had issued a Finding Of No Significant Impact (FONSI).
The proposed project includes the filling in of 3.74 acres of wetlands adjacent to the existing runway, which is also the site of the proposed hangars. According to the public notice published by the Army Corps in October 2009, the purpose of the fills is to comply with FAA recommendations regarding hazardous wildlife attractants, specifically to mitigate the potential for aircraft collisions with birds that are attracted to the wetland areas.
W.K. Dickson released an indirect and cumulative effects assessment in February 2009, which noted the airport’s plans to build hangars in the future, but said that such plans were not dependent on the runway extension. The assessment stated that extension and other improvements do not have “an explicit economic development purpose.”
“They’ve always been clear about eventually wanting hangars,” said Lori Beckwith of the Asheville Regulatory Field Office of the Army Corps of Engineers, “but whether or not it’s ever going to happen, that’s a funding issue.”
Beckwith said that the addition of hangars would not need the approval of the Army Corps unless the development would impact the surrounding waterways beyond what the current project has already proposed mitigation. If wetland fills are approved as part of the project, the Army Corp no longer has jurisdiction over the areas.
“That is no longer wetland, and they can do what they want there,” she said.
According to Gregory, the airport may be able to find federal stimulus funds for the new hangars, but this has yet to be verified. “We’re having our engineers look at revenue sources,” he said.
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