Athens Review, Athens, Texas

Local News

June 7, 2014

Changes to the airport central issue in Monday meeting

Athens — The Athens City Council is scheduled on Monday to consider appointing a consultant/liason to the Texas Department of Transportation Aviation Division and Federal Aviation Administration, as the city attempts to progress toward lengthening the runway at the Athens Municipal Airport.

The appointment is just one of the items on a busy agenda for the meeting, set to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the City Hall annex.

The Airport Advisory Board, at its June 3 meeting, approved submitting the name of  Phil Becker for the unpaid position. Airport Board member Steve Grant presented the idea at a special meeting of the council on June 4. Grant said Becker’s services will be useful in the runway grant process, but also a valuable asset in other future planning and projects.

Grant said Becker lives at the Pinnacle Club, and has a long history in aviation. He’s an organizer of a major air show at Cedar Creek Lake each summer. Becker is also is well-versed in the grant process, and has shown a keen interest in the Athens Airport project.

“He’s done yeoman’s work in terms of getting the information together and making suggestions,” Grant said. “He’s spent hours and hours at no cost working with members of our board.”  

The city is currently in negotiations to get a grant from TxDOT to expand the runway from its current 3,998 feet, to the desired 5,000 feet, would be about $4.8 million. The cost estimate is $1,170,000 for rehabilitation of the current airport and $3,611,000 for the extension. Athens would have to put up a 10-percent local match.

After a series of meetings with TxDOT concerning the expansion, Athens learned that before additional action can be taken, the city was required to submit user-support letters to TxDOT from those who use the airport, explaining why they would benefit from the additional runway length.

In December, Gary Crecelius, Director of Planning and Development, informed the airport board that the Airport Improvement Surveys had been mailed out. The surveys indicated more than 800 additional operations might have occurred with the expanded-runway length.

That number exceeds the required 500 operations for expansion of the Athens Municipal Airport. Those results were submitted to the state officials, but the number accepted was less than 300. The board is working to get that number over the minimum.

“We feel that now we have a fairly narrow window of opportunity,” Grant said. “We’ve been working on this for several months. Some of the interested parties are getting kind-of anxious that we have not moved forward.”

Also on the agenda is a proclamation honoring the first responders who participated in fighting the blaze and security of the surrounding area during the fire that destroyed Ag Services on Larkin Street on May 29.

Fire Chief John McQueary is expected to give an update concerning the fire and the clean-up, which is still underway.

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