FAA funds for upgrades expected to pay for acreage

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 30, 2014

The money to pay for acreage at the Lawrence County Airpark the county acquired through an eminent domain lawsuit will apparently come from the Federal Aviation Administration. Just not the way the county was expecting.

Each year the FAA allots $150,000 to Lawrence County for airport improvements.

“You can carry over about three years and then you have another coming up that you can use in advance,” Commission President Les Boggs said. “It is probably going to be that money used to resolved the lawsuit.”

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That means right now the county has $600,000 to pay for airport upgrades. But apparently that money is what will be used to cover the negotiated price between the county and the Wilson family to buy the acreage and easements at the ends of both runways.

The county, which had sought the property so it could have trees at either end of the runway cut down for safety, had filed the lawsuit about two years ago against the Wilsons’ holding companies. An appraiser for the county valued the acreage in the lawsuit at $280,000 while one for the Wilson family said the land was worth $1,815,000. If the suit had gone to trial, a jury would have determined how much the property was worth. Both parties negotiated an agreed-upon price for the land, which has yet to be publicly disclosed.

“There is more than what we owe the Wilsons (in the improvement fund),” Boggs said. “This is FAA money, not county money.”

The current improvement project at the airport on the table is upgrading the lighting on the runways and taxiing areas. However, until the new runways are established, the county doesn’t want to put out money for lighting on the current footprint.

Right now, the cost of cutting down the trees at the site is unknown.

“We will have to contract with somebody,” Boggs said. “The airport advisory board will work to find somebody.”