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News Airport Authority gets update as it gets ready to begin construction

Erik Rhysdon of W.K. Dickson, a consulting firm out of Charlotte was present at Tuesday's Macon County Airport Authority meeting to give the board an update on a variety of issues that the authority has had in the works over the last year.

He first gave an update on a pending grant that had recently been received.

“We have received $166,000 for the apron rehab that was recently carried out leaving a remaining balance of $21,000,” said Rhysdon.

He said that a funding request for lighting maintenance on the runway had yet to be addressed by the N.C. Department of Transportation and that it could take three months for the repairs to get paid for. Non-primary entitlement funds – funds that should pay for the repairs – can be used at the board's discretion, but will take time to be granted.

Pointing to obvious safety concerns, Chairman Milles Gregory suggested taking another approach in order to get the lights fixed.

“I think that because of safety, we need to prioritize the lighting,” Gregory said. “Maybe we can consider going to the commissioners to ask about borrowing the money. If we have it in writing that the funds will be coming, they may be more likely to help us.”

Rhysdon assured the board that he would find out more about the funds as soon as possible.

The runway widening project that has been in the works since last summer is predicted to begin construction on or around March 15.

At one time the project was set to to start before then, but due to weather concerns the start date was pushed into the spring season.

“I spoke with the contractor yesterday and provided the surveyor with the project data so he could start preparing his survey layouts and his construction layout information. When I arrived today the contractor superintendent was up here looking around so that's a good sign. Hopefully they are eager to get going in about the next two weeks,” said Rhysdon. “The next step is to get the official start date set and begin the runway widening.”

He concluded by updating the board on some recent DOT meetings that took place in the region. The topic of these meetings was Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) funds.

“Probably the most significant thing that came from the TAC (Transportation Advisory Committee) meeting was that Cherokee County withdrew their request to fund their airport projects,” he told the board. “They didn't want those projects to be competing against their highway projects. Even though that's not the intent of the new funding system, especially with the system setting up highway funds for 93 percent and aviation for four percent and with this area not having other modes of transportation, hopefully that means that the competition between projects is separated.”

According to the guidelines established by the state, there shouldn't be an issue with highway projects competing with aviation projects since the monies are set at different percentages, but Cherokee County chose to withdraw their request anyway.

Budget concerns wrapped up the airport authority meeting. The board agreed on a need to develop a budget since budget discussions with the county commissioners will begin soon. Board member Pete Haithcock assured county commissioner and airport liaison Jim Tate that the board would have a budget ready by March 21.

The next Airport Authority meeting will take place on March 25 at 4 p.m. at the airport.


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