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Area pilots association offering funding plan

Wants to keep FAA grants

 

Turning the Lawrence County Airport into a self-sustaining operation is the goal of the Tri-State Pilots Association as it attempts to save federal funds for capital improvements.

About a year ago, the Lawrence County Commission approved going forward with installing a radio-activated lighting system at the Chesapeake airport with approximately $300,000 in Federal Aviation Administration funds. To get that money the county must come up with a 10 percent match, approximately $30,000.

However the question has arisen on whether the county, in the midst of a budget crunch, has the money for the match. That has put two commissioners at odds over the project — Les Boggs in favor and Bill Pratt saying the pilots association has to come up with the money.

That brought Steve Songer of the pilots association to Thursday’s commission meeting with a plan to raise the funds needed to match that and future FAA grants — this in light of Pratt currently reviewing the pros and cons of turning that property into a commercial development.

“The Lawrence County Airport and the whole operation is an odyssey at best,” Songer said at the commissioners’ Thursday meeting. “We have lost a significant amount of funds from the FAA for upgrades at the airport.”

To end that the pilots association wants the airport to sustain itself, Songer said.

“This plan, it’s a conservative plan, where the airport can come up with the means to keep these grants,” he said.

The association’s proposal would generate $15,000 a year from assessments including those on hangar tenants, box owners, tie-down tenants and Attitude Aviation, Inc.

So far approximately $25,000 has been spent on the proposed lighting project for an engineering study. Of that $19,000 came from a grant and the remainder from airport fees.

Boggs said he would like to see that project become a reality.

“If we voted to do something, we need to honor that,” he said.

After the meeting Pratt said he wanted to review the pilots association’s plan before commenting on its viability or the prospect of developing the Chesapeake site.

In other action the commission:

• Authorized County Engineer Doug Cade to sign a purchase agreement between the county and Bob Clyse Chevrolet to replace a pickup with a 2013 model for $35,000;

• Accepted the resignation of Dr. Kimberly Triplett as the county’s EMS director and entered into a one-year contract with Dr. Benjamin Mack for the same job.