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The Twin County Airport Commission is looking to localities to help fund capital improvement projects over the next few years in order to make the airport in Carroll County an economic development tool, said Tom Jones, chair of the commission.
At a meeting Tuesday at the Crossroads Institute with commission members and Galax, Grayson and Carroll representatives, Jones explained that the airport could play a role in bringing companies to Wildwood Park, a regional industrial park in Carroll County.
The commission is looking to fund a runway extension, two new hangars, a new terminal and commercial building — all to bring corporate prospects to the area and revenue to the airport.
“This is just a piece of the puzzle of Wildwood,” said Jones. “And each location has its own equal interest in the airport... We have worked hard to utilize the funds we had to do the best we can.”
Over the past 10 years, Jones said, several improvements have been made to the airport. A full-time airport manager has been hired, the ramp has doubled in size, a corporate hangar has been installed, the runway has been widened 60-75 feet, a courtesy car has been donated by the city, it is now connected to county water, fencing has been added and lights have been upgraded, along with several other improvements.
The airport commission is looking at ways to fund a 5,100-foot extension of the runway to allow standard corporate flights to land there.
The commission also seeks money to fund construction of a new terminal building that has been designed, construction of two hangars at the site and a commercial building, which will replace the one that had to be torn down.
One prospect was bringing an aviation service to the Twin County Airport, but because no commercial building was available, the localities lost out on the tax revenue and possible employment that would have resulted, said Larry Bartlett, a commission member and representative of the Grayson County Board of Supervisors.
One representative said the airport already has a waiting list of individuals wanting to relocate their airplanes to the hangars that would be constructed at Twin County Airport.
“In order to attract expensive aircraft, we need a decent way to store them,” said Lewis Walker of the commission. “The hangars will be a source of income for us through fuel usage and rental space.”
The airport's money has been spent on making improvements without asking for help from the localities, said Jones.
But now, there is only about $45,000 in the bank for the airport, and $19,000 is owed for the runway safe project that was part of the commission's past improvements.
The $45,000 is only enough to fill the fuel tanks at the airport, and will not allow for any additional capital improvement projects.
Terry Page of the Federal Aviation Administration was impressed that the localities are choosing to work together, said Jones.
Before the extension of the runway can begin, a feasibility study must be performed. That is scheduled to begin in 2011.
For 2011, the FAA has offered to pay $71,250, and the Virginia Department of Aviation will pay $2,250. For 2012, figures show the estimated cost of a runway extension environmental assessment at $150,000, with most coming from FAA and DOAV.
For 2013, the runway extension land acquisition and terminal construction would cost $1.09 million, with $284,500 coming from localities.
For 2014, the runway extension land acquisition will cost $500,000, with $475,000 from federal funds and $15,000 from the state. In 2015, the cost will be the same as 2014.
In 2016, actual construction would begin, costing $5 million, with $4.7 million from the FAA, $150,000 from the state and $100,000 from the localities.
Through 2017, the airport would receive about $8.3 million in improvements, with about $733,000 coming from localities, including the construction of a new 1,000-square-foot commercial building. The commission asked the localities to divide this cost figure by five years amongst the three localities to fund about $50,000 each for the projects.
Bartlett said that, if the federal funds are not used, then the commission will begin losing the money. A decision must be made by August 2011 whether the commission will go through with the projects.
“We're trying to get the best bang for our buck,” Jones told representatives from the localities. “With the help of FAA, we only have to come up with about 2 percent of the funds... We're trying to grow the airport, but we need your help to do it.”
According to Jones, Page advised that the commission better begin utilizing those funds now, or the money will be lost.
“We can either invest, or let the airport continue to deteriorate,” said Bartlett. “It's a difficult decision because of the economy.”
At the airport, revenue will be created through fuel sales, taxes and rental space. Last year, the airport had $819,000 in fuel sales.
Grayson County Administrator Jonathan Sweet suggested a debt service to spread out payments over the next few years.
Jones suggested that representatives notify the FAA, 9th District Rep.-elect Morgan Griffith and others to show that the airport has an interest in moving forward — and will need financial help.
“We need your support of the airport,” said Jones. “The airport is the first impression of our future clients.”