Carolyn L. Higgins – Contributing Writer
Several projects await “pulling the trigger,” according to Macon County Airport Authority Chairman Miles Gregory. During a meeting on Tuesday, May 24, the authority addressed a few carry-over concerns and sought clarification from their Project Engineer James “Jimmy” Luther, Aviation Program Manager at Charlotte, N.C.-based WK Dickson.
“The project we are waiting to get under way is to rehab the vault building,” said Gregory. “We received some shop drawings from the electrical contractor, but we don’t have a scheduled time exactly for the vault building itself to be fabricated. Once that’s done we look forward to closing out that project.” This project was possible because the Apron Rehab Project came in under budget, with the remaining funding being utilized for the electrical vault building. Another project, the bush hogging, has been bid and approved and will be completed as soon as the weather permits.
Key to the group was understanding which requests for the airport utility, equipment and maintenance items fell under federal, state or other grants. Luther said the authority would receive notification of the 2018 report along with non-primary entitlement grants. Under the Airport Improvement Program, “Non-primary entitlement funds are a portion of the funds received by North Carolina Department of Transportation as part of the State Block Grant program and may be used for terminal buildings and parking, fuel farms, hangars and reimbursement for approved projects.”
Luther fielded questions from Gregory and other members regarding which items were considered safety or maintenance and whether or not they were included in the grant. They included bringing water to the airport, repairing incursions in fencing from wildlife, and trees and other debris falling on the perimeter fencing.
“We’re looking at safety being basically things concerning your air field,” said Luther. “There’s actually a shopping list of things: pretty much all your horizontal surface, runway and taxiway repaired, apron expansions, vertical construction hangars, tarmac and things of that nature are eligible; but you have to have your safety priority items out of the way first before that ranks.” Luther also confirmed a soil test on the break out in the fuel line had been completed and tested for contamination and everything was okay.
“Everything gets ranked in a prioritization from the Division of Aviation as a project. Perimeter fence is eligible; obstruction removal is eligible but basically one time. Once the obstruction is removed, it’s your responsibility to maintain that zone and area,” said Luther. He noted that keeping the approaches clear is the responsibility of the authority and stressed each time the authority signs a grant [such as the $150,000 grant awarded to the county each year] there are assurances attached to that grant. “As soon as you accept the money, you are obligated to maintain those assurances and there are 30- some items on there.”
A proposed fiscal year 2018-2019 operating expense budget was presented to the authority at $62,200. In Treasurer Pete Haithcock’s absence; Gregory presented the budget, and it was approved by the authority for presentation to the Town Council. When Haithcock presented the 2017-2018 budget last year, there had been “decreases in various components of the budget, and increases in others” according to the minutes, with Macon County Finance Director Lori Hall advising the difficulty of an increase in the over-all budget last year. This year, the budget was approved with a $1,500 increase over last year’s $60,700.
Major line items ranked by amount included: $19,000 for property/building maintenance; $11,700 for electricity; $7,000 for property insurance; $5,000 for legal fees; $4,500 for gas/propane; $2,400 for contract services; $2,000 for events and $1,600 for travel. Line Items for $1,000 or less included: maintenance supplies, professional fees, telephone expense, audit, operating supplies, and postage/departmental. The public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 4 p.m., May 29 at the airport.
Another item regarding funding is the Open House Fly-in to be held on June 2. David Hart of EAA Chapter 497, one of the event organizers, has requested funds from the authority for advertising in local media. The main attraction will be air displays by B-17s at no cost and a potential for a T-6 and T-19 from Commemorate Air Force in Peachtree, Ga. To bring the planes from Peachtree, the authority would have to pay an $800 appearance fee and fill the tanks with 50 gallons of 100 Octane Av gas. The chapter does not have those funds, so Hart only requested advertising dollars. Member Tommy Jenkins suggested covering up to $500 in advertising if the funds were left in the events line item. The authority agreed. Neil Hoppe and Peggy Milton of Franklin Aviation offered to provide the fuel for the Peachtree Planes if the authority wished to find a sponsor for the $800. The authority voted for that alternative.
The meeting closed with Gregory encouraging Luther to help get some of the projects accelerated.
“I know from where you sit, and the way it looks now, it’s going to be a tough sell to expedite these projects, but as the old saying goes, ‘where’s there’s a will there’s a way.’”