Airport committee, Development Authority met Monday

Published 1:37 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Representatives from the Development Authority of Bainbridge and Decatur County met with the Decatur County Airport Committee Monday afternoon, in a meeting recommended by the Decatur Board of Commissioners.
The meeting was arranged to discuss the removal or relocation of a possible grass landing strip from the airport’s master plan. The Development Authority requested this action in order to open up more developable, marketable land in the industrial park.
Although the landing strip does not currently exist — it is only proposed — it is included on the airport’s master plan that is filed with the Federal Aviation Administration. For that reason, the FAA has placed building restrictions on and around the land where the landing strip is planned.
“The main reason we came here today, and the main reason we appeared before the county commission last week, is because we have a piece of developable property with a proposed grass runway on it,” said Keith Lyle, chairman of the Development Authority. “We can recruit an industry to put on that property and we want the Airport Committee to have input on petitioning the FAA to change the master plan so that we can put an industry on that piece of property.”
Karl Young, the chairman of the airport committee, said that the committee would consider the Development Authority’s request.
“What the airport committee intends to do today is hear your discussion and let you educate us on what you are asking us to do,” Young said. “We’re not going to give you any answer today. We’re going to think about it, do our homework, and discuss what we feel is the best recommendation to give the county and we’ll try to do that before their next meeting. I hope that is sufficient.”
“The ultimate decision lies with the county commission,” Lyle responded. “Do what you feel like you need to do.”
During the Feb. 26 meeting of the Decatur County Board of Commissioners, Lyle and Development Authority Executive Director Rick McCaskill discussed removing the landing strip from the master plan.
The commissioners indicated their support in removing the strip. During that meeting, Commissioner Dr. David C. “Butch” Mosely suggested McCaskill and Lyle meet with the airport committee within two weeks, in order to gain consensus. He indicated that if the joint meeting did not take place before the next commissioners’ meeting, the commission would remove the possible landing strip from the plan.
“I want to propose not the airport lose a runway, but to simply relocate the runway,” McCaskill said Monday. “I would like to see that you recommend to the county that we petition the FAA to remove this runway from the master plan.”
“If you want to sustain a grass runway, just ask the FAA if we can move it,” said Billy Howell, the owner of Ag Flight, who was present at Monday’s meeting. “I create 95 percent of the traffic at this airport, but we need the jobs and we need to create the industry.”
The meeting ended without a decision of eliminating or relocating the possible grass landing strip, in advance of next Tuesday’s county commission meeting.

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