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Local airport advisory committeee gets off ground at first meeting

They have an idea where they are going.

Now, all the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport Advisory Committee has to do is figure out a flight plan.

"You need to decide what you want this facility to be and what are your goals," said Phil Eberly, a project manager with airport planner WK Dickson.

County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton said the board serves as the eyes and ears of local leaders.

"We don't see everything and we are not airports as much as some of the people around this table are," he said, adding he wants to know what other airports are doing right -- and what they are doing wrong. But most importantly, he wants the board to produce solutions.

"That's the biggest thing we need -- solutions," he said.

The advisory committee met for the first time last week -- an organizational gathering that allowed members to get a glimpse of the airports' future.

Mr. Eberly, armed with conceptual drawings of future construction at the airport, said the facility is in good shape: The Federal Aviation Administration is more than willing to fund McDuffie County projects because of stellar local support.

"You are very well positioned," he said.

Mr. Eberly said a recent change in federal law greatly benefits McDuffie County. Federal statutes now allow for only 2.5 percent local matching funds on airport project -- half of what was required in previous years.

That -- along with an annual $150,000 budgeted for airport work -- will allow McDuffie County to possibly complete some of the work on the conceptual drawings, including expanded paving and increased terminals.

"You have created a hell of a front door now," he said of the existing facility.

The biggest hurdle on the horizon though is the "Grand Canyon" just west of the airport. Officials want to expand the current runway from about 5,200 feet to 5,500 feet. But that project calls for the filling-in of a huge gulley -- an expensive prospect.

"You are going to spend a ton of money down there," Mr. Eberly said.

Also during the meeting, committee members elected Bill Chisholm as chairman, Mike Dudley as vice-chairman and Don Powers as secretary.



Web posted on Thursday, July 29, 2004


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