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Grayson agrees to fund airport project

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Grayson County leaders have agreed to provide the final $7,000 needed to install a sewer line to Twin County Regional Airport.

Supervisors' Vice Chairman Larry Bartlett represents the county on the airport commission and spoke about the request at the board meeting Aug. 13.

Bartlett noted that the airport commission was seeking funds to install the sewage line to the airport and needed $42,000.

Before asking the board to consider the county's share, Bartlett wanted to put some misconceptions to rest that Grayson County doesn't benefit from the airport, which is located in Carroll and serves that county, Grayson and the City of Galax.

With the tough economic times, Bartlett expressed that a growing economy hinges on having infrastructure available. Part of that infrastructure includes transportation by way of roads and airways.

Bartlett added that a developer in Florida has a home in Elk Creek and regularly flies his plane in and out of the regional airport. His plane is parked at the airport and Bartlett said the man has been requesting a hanger be built for at least a year.

“We have nine people on a waiting list for a smaller hanger,” Bartlett continued.

In addition to growing demand for space at the airport, Bartlett noted that there are several services provided by the airport — such as aiding law enforcement. Officers have been doing recent flights over the Twin Counties searching for illegal activities, such as growing marijuana.

Along with local law enforcement, medical flights come through the airport, as well. Other activities at the airport include charter flight services, an aircraft mechanic on the field, regular fly-ins and an annual air show.

He continued that these services were bringing both jobs and economic advancement to the area.

More specific to Grayson County, Bartlett stressed the importance of the airport in bringing Nautilus Inc. to Independence because the original owner could fly in.

“We’re still receiving benefits [from Nautilus],” Bartlett said.

Bartlett also expressed the importance of the airport for the new prison under construction outside of Independence.

“Prisoners are hauled by aircraft for many reasons,” Bartlett said.

He concluded by saying that the airport commission was dreaming big, but could not continue to grow without a septic system in place.

In regards to funding, a 50-50 grant has been obtained through Mount Rogers Planning District Commission, leaving $21,000 to fund the project. Bartlett said Galax has offered $7,000, conditional upon Carroll and Grayson counties participating.

County Administrator Jonathan Sweet notified the board that the $7,000 could be taken from the infrastructure development budget if the board wished to participate.

With the recommendation, Bartlett motioned to provide the requested funding. The motion was seconded by Supervisor Doug Carrico and passed unanimously.