EA study for county airport rehab project reviewed by county board

By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

The much-anticipated Houston County Airport Environmental Assessment study was recently completed and the Houston County Board had a chance to discuss the recommendations presented by Matt Wagner and Evan Barrett from the consulting firm Mead & Hunt, who was commissioned to conduct the study.

Wagner and Barrett explained that the county had four alternatives to consider. Those alternatives ranged from doing nothing and having the airport shut down within a few years to reconstructing the runaway and either removing or relocating all of the buildings at the airport and one off-airport barn.

Those alternatives and estimated costs were:

• Alternative one- Doing nothing. There would be no land acquisition and the airport would be shut down within a few years. This alternative would come with a price tag of $400,000 for the cost of demolition of the runway and buildings, plus state and federal funds that must be paid back, which was estimated between $500,000 to $2 million, depending on how the FAA would handle the payback.

• Alternative two- Reconstructing a 3,500 foot runway just northeast of the current runway. This option would not allow for publication of straight-in instrument approach procedure, nor would it eliminate all obstructions for runway access. The total recommended land acquisition/easement would be 21.8 acres, including 1.3 acres of converted farmland. This alternative would meet all federal and state requirements for land use control. The cost for this alternative was estimated at $2.3 million plus land acquisition. This alternative would be a 90 percent-federal/10 percent -county split.

• Alternative three- Reconstructing a 3,500 foot runway just northeast of the current runway and reinstate straight-in instrument approach procedure. All on-airport buildings and structures and one off-airport barn would either be removed or relocated. A total of 25 trees would either be topped or removed. The total recommended land acquisition/easement would be 46.2 acres with approximately 7.2 acres of converted farmland. This alternative would meet all federal and state requirements for land use control. The cost of this alternative was estimated at $4.5 million plus land acquisition, and would be a 90-10 split between the federal government and the county.

• Alternative four- Reconstructing a 3,500 foot runway just northeast of the current runway and reinstate straight-in instrument approach procedure. The only existing airspace obstruction to be relocated would be the airport beacon. The number of trees removed or topped would be 10. The total recommended land acquisition/easement would be 57 acres with approximately 8.5 acres of converted farmland. This alternative would meet all federal and state requirements for land use control. The cost of this alternative was estimated at $3.1 million plus land acquisition, and would be a 90-10 split between the federal government and the county.

Barrett told the board Mead & Hunt were recommending the fourth alternative and added that most of the farmland acquired could be leased back to the property owners for ag use.

Board Chairman Jack Miller noted that if the board decided to go with the first alternative and close the airport, it would come with a significant cost to the county and there would be some long-term repercussions.

County Highway Engineer Brian Pogodzinki, who also serves as the airport manager, said that the payback to the FAA, if the county decided to close down the airport, would cost the county quite a bit more money than going with any of the other alternatives proposed by Mead & Hunt.

Public hearing

Before the county board makes any decisions on the airport, they will gather public input at a public hearing that has been scheduled for Monday, March 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Houston County Justice Center.

 You can contact Charlie Warner at charlie.warner@ecm-inc.com

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