Last updated: July 25. 2014 11:46AM - 826 Views
By - mstrother@civitasmedia.com

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The long-awaited runway extension project for LaGrange-Callaway Airport may begin by the end of the year.

During Monday’s meeting of the Airport Advisory Board - its first since the airport came under the arm of the county - Reg Weaver, consultant with WK Dickson & Co., said the airport has received a “tentative allocation” of funds from the Georgia Department of Transportation for the cost of easements and design of the runway extension.

GDOT is planning $1 million for the easement acquisition and design for the project, which includes $900,000 in Federal Aviation Administration funds and $50,000 from GDOT and $50,000 in local funds.

“So that’s a very good sign as far as commitment to this project,” Weaver said. “We have submitted scope and fee proposals to GDOT and they had been putting that off until they got this presented. Now that this is together I think we’ll move forward.”

A contract date to execute the plan is set for October with a plan to ask the Board of Commission for approval in November.

“We’re ready to roll, finally,” said County Manager Tod Tentler.

Weaver said that the allocation is not a commitment, but like saying that the agency is ready to move forward on the project if the county is ready.

“The good part is there are reserved funds for it,” Weaver said. “That’s what this is indicating. That’s the grease that makes the project move.”

Tentler added that the county has contracted with a group to finish up runway easement appraisals to make offers on acquisitions, needed to secure the appropriate airspace clearance from surrounding property owners for the extension. He hoped the final 20 acquisitions should be cleared by October.

Tentler met with GDOT officials on Wednesday to draw up a contract and begin working on designs. Tentler told the Daily News on Thursday that the meeting went well and officials were happy with the airport’s plan and will send it to the director of aviation for approval, which Tentler expected to receive some time next week.

Assuming all acquisitions are finished by the October contract date, the design should be ready and the project can move forward.

The extension, a project which also will include an overlay of the existing runway, will be funded 90 percent by the FAA and 5 percent by GDOT through grants with the remaining 5 percent coming from local funds. Tentler said the last estimate for construction of the extension and overlay that was given to the county a few years ago was about $2 million.

When the extension is complete, Tentler said Kia officials have indicated that there will be greater opportunity for the company, among others, to utilize LaGrange-Callaway Airport. Tentler said not only is the company likely to have more corporate flights in and out, but also may base an aircraft at the airport.

“A lot of people have asked what is the extension going to do for us?” Tentler said. “People are wondering if it’s really worth it. I think it really is going to be worth it.”

In other business, the airport budget is looking at a shortfall in its first fiscal year under the county of about $9,024, Tentler noted. That is in part due to expenses the county had to incur up front like $72,000 for runway striping that ate up a lot of the airport’s reserve. The airport still has cash on hand, but it’s earmarked for the runway easement acquisitions.

Tentler said fuel sales are slow, but with the runway extension and better marketing and promoting of the airport there is opportunity to expand the air traffic coming to LaGrange and boosting fuel sales, which are lagging. He added that with more restrictions on Atlanta air space, there are more people asking about locating in a hangar in LaGrange, so adding hangars could help bring in more rent from new customers.

There is money budgeted to hire an airport director, Tentler told the board, but he may also look at contracting with someone to oversee operations. He noted that there needs to be more emphasis on customer support and care, and someone at the airport daily to ensure operations are running smoothly.

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