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News Airport Authority is considering changes in funding procedures

Two large jets landed at the Macon County Airport Sunday. A third one, similar in size was also on the apron at the time.The Macon County Airport Authority board held its monthly meeting Tuesday afternoon. Erik Rysdon was in attendance to provide updates to the board about a variety of issues. Rysdon, a project manager at W.K. Dickson, an engineering, planning, and design firm out of Charlotte, is leading the runway widening project. The contract was recently awarded to Reeves Construction. He is also the board's go-to when other issues arise or new projects come about.

As far as the widening project is concerned, Rysdon told the board that the Division of Aviation (DOA) had not gotten back to him about approval as of yet, but that it should be coming soon.

He informed the board of changes coming from the state that would make the path to gaining funding for projects different than the one they currently follow. The North Carolina Airports Association recently held a meeting to discuss the upcoming changes to the funding system for the modes of transportation in the state.

“Basically they recommended that if you have any projects you are considering for the next seven years, you need to get a request in before Nov. 1 because after the first, they are going to start looking at projects that span the next seven years,” said Rysdon.

According to Rysdon, it's going to be a learning experience for everybody and the state is still hammering out the details. When the new plan is implemented, the Division of Aviation will have a 50 percent say of what gets funded, the District 14 Department of Transportation (DOT) engineer will have 25 percent, and the Rural Planning Organization (RPO) will have the other 25 percent. Each will have points to award to projects and the higher the points, the higher the likelihood of the project being chosen for funding.

“Most of these groups haven't been working with the airports so it's going to be a learning and education process that we'll work through,” said Rysdon.

Chairman Milles Gregory asked if it was going to be a better or worse system than the one currently being used.

“It kind of sounds to me like it's going to be harder to get funding,” he said.

“Well there is a good chance the airports will fare better. It's supposed to open up state Economic Development Commission funding to the airports,” said Rysdon. “If you get a group that is supportive of the airport and sees the advantage of the airport to the community you're going to fare better. Of course, you could get one that does not see it. It could also open the process up to more political decisions in some aspects.”

All of the divisions will get $34 million regardless of the size of the division which could be beneficial to the Macon County Airport. There are two other airports in the 14th division, Murphy/Andrews and Jackson County Airport. The state legislature developed three tiers of funding with division needs being one of them which is where the $34 million comes from.

Board member Pete Haithcock who also attended the NCAA meeting informed the board of how they could use the new system to their advantage.

“You also have to consider that the more local support you have, the more points you get. That should help us out a lot,” he said.

An advantage that the state legislature hopes will come from the move is that local authorities will know well in advance whether a grant will be given.

“This will allow you to get a grant approved and then go to the county to get a match grant,” said Rysdon. “When this is implemented we should know in time for the county planning and budgeting.”

The Airport Authority will continue to develop strategies to address these changes to funding in the future. According to Haithcock there is one reason to feel good about the future.

“Luckily we've already got our major projects scheduled,” he said.

The next Airport Authority meeting will take place on Sept. 24 at 4 p.m. at the Macon County Airport.


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