Long-term, short-term airport needs considered

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, December 12, 2000

Some short-term improvements and the need for a long-range planwere topics of discussion Monday as a new advisory commission metto consider the future of the Brookhaven airport.

“I think it’s something we need to look at in the short term andin the long term,” said Paul Barnett, commission chairman, duringdiscussions about plans for the facility’s future.

Short-term issues considered Monday included a self-servicefueling center, a keyless entry system for the terminal buildingand some safety issues related to the runway.

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Long-term issues mentioned included possible airport expansionor relocation, although both are considered very preliminary.

Commission members, aldermen and the mayor were scheduled tomeet Monday to discuss airport operations; however, that meetingwas postponed due a delay in the drafting of a merged airportordinance. City Attorney Joe Fernald said separate sections of theordinance have been approved, but the merged ordinance must beapproved at Tuesday’s aldermen meeting.

Barnett said it would be premature for the airport commission todiscuss the ordinance without first having a chance to look at it.The joint commission-aldermen meeting was tentatively rescheduledfor Jan. 15.

Earlier this year, aldermen disbanded the previous airport boardand assumed operation of the airport. City officials citedmismanagement and violations of a 1961 airport board enablingresolution among reasons for city action.

“The problem was they (aldermen) had an institute and couldn’ttell where it was going,” Fernald said last night in reference tothe previous situation.

Other than the board of aldermen having authority over spending,Fernald said the new airport commission has much the same powers asthe previous board. With commission members’ aeronauticalexperience, Fernald expected aldermen to rely on the commission tomake reasonable recommendations in running the airport.

To that end, the commission is expected at Tuesday’s meeting torequest the city seek bids for a self-service fueling system. Theairport budget includes $15,000 for the system, which would allowpilots to fuel planes after hours.

“It could be less. It could be a little more,” Airport ManagerBenton Furlow told commission members about the cost.

A keyless entry system, expected to cost several hundreddollars, will also be pursued. It would allow after-hours pilotaccess to terminal building services, such as a weather forecastsystem and restrooms.

Commission members also want to look into maintenance of theairport’s runway. Barnett said the runway needs to be swept asleast twice a month to prevent gravel from flying up and possiblydamaging airplanes.

A “hump” in the airport runway is also getting commissionmembers’ attention. It is a raised area on the part of the runwaythat is considered not usable.

Furlow said engineers and state transportation officials saidthe “hump,” because of its location on the runway, was considered”not critical” in the final inspection of the runway extension.Barnett, however, said the hump could come into play during a takeoff and a cause a plane to go airborne prematurely.

“I’m convinced it’s a safety issue,” Barnett said.

Commission members planed to contact engineers about thesituation.

In long-range plans, extension of the airport runway’s stated3,800 feet length would require the purchase of land at either orboth ends of the current runway. Relocation possibilities have notgone beyond the looking at some land, and no studies have beendone, officials indicated last night.

Barnett said he would like to continue efforts to develop along-range master plan for the airport. He hoped to have some kindof formalized plan, including other short-term needs and long-termpossibilities, ready in about four months.