JEFFERSON —Ashe County planned airport upgrade grew in scope again this week as commissioners agreed to spend an additional $80,000 in county money on the project.
That’ll be matched by $720,000 in state and federal money to strengthen the airport’s apron, the area planes refuel between flights.
Commissioners voted unanimously on Nov. 16, to resurface and strengthen the airport’s runway, a $2.7 million project that would allow much heaver aircraft to land at the Ashe County Airport. At that time, commissioners agreed to match the state and federal funding with $270,000 in county funding. The government would pick up the rest of the tab – about $2.4 million.
But that project didn’t account for the airport apron which will need to be strengthened to accomodate the heavier airplanes, according to James Moose, a project engineer for Charlotte-based AVCON, Inc., an engineering planning and consulting firm that works with the county in order to identify and develop projects as they relate to the airport. He spoke to commissioners on Dec. 21.
“Once the runway overlay is strengthened, the apron will still be restricted to the lower weight limits,” Moose said.
According to Moose, the estimated cost to resurface the apron would add another $800,000 to the project budget.
“But the benefit is, we would have a complete runway and apron system that would be up to those strengthened numbers,” Moose said.
Funding to resurface the apron would also come from the state, according to Moose, as long as the county agreed to pay $80,000, another 10 percent match. The board voted 5-0 in favor of the match on Monday.
According to County Manager Sam Yearick, funds for both of the matches would come from the county’s economic development fund.
The airport project
Ashe County Airport is a county-owned, public use facility. It houses more than 30 aircraft in 17 hangars.
A consulting report issued in 2012 by the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division said the airport is responsible for more than $32 million per year in “total economic impact,” and affects some 220 county jobs, and provided more than $220,000 per year in tax revenue from airplanes and hangars housed at the site.
Moose previously told commissioners in November that the project will not only overlay some of the 4,300-foot runway’s existing issues but strengthen it for the use of heavier planes with a thicker layer of asphalt. Right now, the maximum aircraft weight the runway can handle is 12,500-pounds but the project would allow the runway to be able to take aircraft up to 45,000-pounds.
Moose stated that the runway was pushing the asphalt’s recommended lifespan of two decades as it hasn’t been repaved in at least 20 years and the evidence is visible with much of the pavement cracking.
A massive runway lengthening project, which first began in October of 2011 and was completed last year, increased the available runway space at the airport by more than 1,000-feet. Moose said that strengthening the runway would accommodate the length, bringing in larger aircraft.
According to Yearick, that could mean more money from fuel sales and present more opportunity for entrepreneurs to take advantage of increased airport traffic.
Moose said that the project could be completed within 2-3 months of its start date which is expected to be sometime in the spring of 2016.
Hannah Myers can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @cmedia_hmyers.