Airport Authority gets $3 million grant

First Posted: 12/8/2009

The Mount Airy-Surry County Airport Authority has received $3 million from the state, which members hope will bring them closer to extending the airport runway and bringing more business into the county.
The authority recently received a $3 million appropriation from the aviation division of the North Carolina Department of Transportation to further its runway expansion project. The grant will require a 10-percent match by the county, amounting to $333,333.
John Springthorpe, chairman of the airport authority, said the county has $150,000 in the current years budget for the airport and is committed to matching the NCDOT grant.
Which is great, Springthorpe remarked.
Commissioner Craig Hunter said the county has committed to a multi-year allocation to meet the required local match.
For the past six or seven years, the authority has been in the planning stages to extend the county airports runway from 4,300 to 5,500 feet. Springthorpe said extending the runway, a tool to better attract industry, will encourage more planes to land in Mount Airy.
Its principally for safety, and it also serves as an economic development tool, explained Springthorpe.
He added that many insurance providers wont let the companies that they cover fly in to runways under 5,000 feet. Some companies in Surry County have to fly in and out of Winston-Salem, according to Springthorpe. More weather conditions also limit travel on short runways.
This will open us up for further business opportunities, Springthorpe remarked.
For the runway to be extended, Holly Springs Road will have to be moved. Springthorpe said the first step to making that happen is to buy the needed property, which the state funds will allow the authority to do. The bulk of the $3 million will be used for property acquisition.
Springthorpe said the authority is in negotiations with several property owners and hopes to close deals soon. The property to be purchased by the authority will be roughly 65 acres.
Initially, there was some opposition in the county to the project, said Springthorpe, but things are now going pretty smoothly.
The property owners we spoke to have been cooperative, and were thankful for that, said Springthorpe.
Since government funds are being used to purchase the properties, Springthorpe said there are many regulations to follow. A survey had to be completed and two appraisals before the authority could even approach each property owner.
After the property purchases are finalized, the next step for the expansion project is to begin construction on the road to be moved. Springthorpe said the authority hopes construction will begin in 2010. Moving the road should take around two years to complete.
The authority will have to pay for the road to be moved, but Springthorpe said there are roads funds that the county hopes to use.
While the moving of Holly Springs Road is the principle piece needed for the runway extension, Springthorpe said there are several other components. These include extending the taxiway, moving a hangar, and more.
This is a large project that encompasses a lot of small parts, said Springthorpe.
The $3 million appropriation was given by the state legislature but is administered through the NCDOT. Springthorpe said they worked with elected officials to help push the appropriation through the legislature.
The Mount Airy-Surry County Airport Authority has operated the airport for 40 years. The members have hope for the runway expansion project.
Initially, we believe its going to keep businesses here … Once youve secured those that are here, then you hope to be able to bring in more, said Springthorpe.
Donald Holder, another member of the authority, recently said, Every community needs an airport. Businesses wouldnt be here if they didnt have a way to get here. They need access … We think that economic development is part of the airport. Had we not had an airport, we probably wouldnt be in as good a shape as we are now.
Contact Meghann Evans at [email protected] or 719-1952.

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