Thursday, January 22, 2009
IDA improves airport
By BARRY BURLESON
Goals are in place to grow the Marshall County Airport, and the the steps have already begun.
“The potential there is so great,” said Bill Mobley, executive director of Marshall County Industrial Development Authority. “We have a vision. The airport is a tremendous economic tool, and we believe it can grow and do wonders.”
IDA, at the request of owners Marshall County and the City of Holly Springs, took over operation of the airport in late 2001.
The progress has been steady since, operating largely off grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Mississippi Department of Transportation. The county and city contribute $10,000 each annually, with the bulk of that being used as match money for grants.
The first of the projects, most coming in the past five years, was an overlay of the entire paved area at the facility, including the taxiway, the runway and the parking area.
“All the cracks were filled and the weak spots fixed – we repaired all the pavement,” said Bill York, president of the IDA board.
New runway lighting was installed, including the addition of a new path approach system to help pilots.
“It’s a big deal as far as pilots coming in, to tell them whether they’re too high or too low,” York said.
Fencing, six-feet high with barbed wire on top, was added for animal control – first on the north and east sides of the property and later on the south and west sides.
“The entire property is now fenced for animal control and security purposes,” York said.
The south end of the property was cleared for safety purposes.
“Trees had grown up,” said Del Stover, IDA consultant, “and this was very much needed for safer landing and taking off.”
The hangar was renovated, and IDA began renting spaces for planes. There are three spaces available.
The parking area is being extended, with tie-down spaces put in place for rental of additional airplanes. That contract is being completed now, and all that is left to do is the striping.
The beacon at the airport was repaired and back in operation as of last week. It had been off for two or three years.
“We were having trouble getting grants for it and couldn’t pay for it out of our pockets,” said Justin Hall, airport manager. “In the last grant, we had a little money set aside for it.”
IDA just opened bids for a fuel farm at the airport. The tanks will provide two types of gas – one regular and one premium. Bids are in the hands of the engineer for evaluation and the contract will be awarded soon. The project will be completed by June.
“We will be able to provide 24-hour fuel service; they can just swipe their cards,” York said.
John Jewell Aircraft, a fixed base operator, has supplied gasoline, rides to town, telephones and “all sorts of help to people flying in,” Mobley said.
“He’s our industry out there,” Mobley said. “He’s a real good client of IDA.”
Russell Johnson, alderman and chairman of IDA’s airport committee, said John Jewell has an “outstanding national reputation and brings in a lot of traffic.”
Johnson also thanked the city and county for the “in-kind work” they do at the airport.
Approximately three years ago, on the advice of MDOT and the FAA, an engineering firm was hired to create a five- to 20-year plan for the airport. Initial goals are complete, with the exception of zoning requirements for height restrictions within a 20,000-foot radius. Both the city and county have passed resolutions for the zoning. Next up will be advertising and holding a hearing.
“Now where do we go from here?” said Hall, as he unveiled future plans.
Goals for the next five years include:
• Building a new maintenance hangar and a smaller 40x40 hangar.
IDA’s goals for six to 10 years at the airport include:
Goals for 11 to 20 years include:
“If we can get the money, we can do a lot of this earlier,” York said. “Of course, we’d like to see it all done in three or four years. These are all big steps in growing the airport and increasing the traffic.”
He also urges city and county leaders to look at the airport as far as access, and another goal is “to upgrade that as much as possible.”
Mobley called the five- to 20-year plan a road map.
“The opportunities are great,” he said. “Our goal is to grow the airport.”
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