Spates Powers Up Defense Of Town's Airport Support

Published 2:09 pm Tuesday, March 18, 2014

FARMVILLE — Town Manager Gerald Spates took off on a point during last week’s town council meeting.

A power point.

Responding to criticism that the Town doesn’t do all it should for its regional airport, Spates delivered a formal presentation detailing a multi-million-dollar six-year development plan for the airport from 2014 through 2020.

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“So in our six-year plan we’re going to spend over $13.2 million on the airport and to say that we don’t support the airport, I think is really stretching it,” Spates said, as half a dozen pilots sat in the audience.

“I encourage any citizen of the town to go out and take a look at our airport,” the town manager continued during the March 12 meeting. “Two weeks ago we had the state and the FAA at the airport to go over projects that we have planned in our six-year plan. They feel that our airport is one of the nicest general aviation airports around.

“And they are very comfortable with what we’re doing with the airport. As a matter of fact, they even looked out the window at the courtesy car and couldn’t believe how nice the courtesy car was because they said most airports have a piece of junk sitting there that nobody else will drive,” he said.

The courtesy car is a vehicle provided, free of charge, for out of town pilots who want to drive into Farmville during their stop-over.

Among the highlights of the six-year plan are:

2014—acquire land for runway extension, $400,00.

2015—Install runway, $300,000.

2016—Construct apron and relocate access road, $1.25 million; relocate maintenance building, $175,000; and relocate parking lot, $400,000.

2017—Construct apron and taxiway, $3 million; extend runway 3-21, $500,000.

2018—Construct T-Hangars, $100,000 and extend runway 3-21, $4 million.

2019—Construct T-Hangar, 10 units, $250,000; construct T-Hangar Taxiway, $400,000; extend runway 3-21 $2.25 million.

2020—Construct parallel taxiway (phase 1), $200,000.

Spates’ presentation came prior to town council’s vote to tear down the municipal hangar because it is damaged and considered a dangerous liability. Pilots who house aircraft in the building have been given 30 days to remove their aircraft.

Mayor Sydnor C. Newman, Jr. appointed a committee that night of three council members and two pilots to meet and consider how best to replace the municipal hangar. The six-year plan is independent of that committee discussion.

As Spates went through his power point presentation he said that every talk he gives about the town features the airport.

“We’re very proud of the airport and this is the very first thing that we show as an asset,” he said, projecting slides on the various overhead screens so council members and the audience could see.

Pointing out the Town’s investment in the airport, Spates said, “We spend more on the airport ($850,511) than we do to operate the bus system in town ($654,681).

“We spend more on the airport than we do to run our recreation program in town ($339,753).

“We spend more on the airport than we do on fire and rescue in town $186,046).

“And it goes on—the sanitation department ($635,446), the golf course ($383,092),” the town manager said, seizing the moment to make a point about the sometimes-criticized purchase of the golf course.

“And the reason we bought the golf course was for protection for the airport. That’s the only reason we bought it,” Spates said, “because we were going to need drainage easements across that golf course and the property owner that had it at the time was opposed to it.”

Spates next tackled the airport’s annual revenue and expense tallies since 2009, showing that the airport ran a deficit each of those years, with the Town needing to transfer a total of $446,196 from the general fund during that period to cover those deficits.

“The last five years…that’s how much we had to transfer from the general fund to make the airport even at the end of the year…,” he noted. “For that five-year period we had to put almost a half million dollars in general fund money into the airport to make it balance.”

Landing his power point on the runway, Spates concluded, “I think council supports the airport a hundred percent. I think we always have. I’ve been here 40 years and I don’t remember one year that we didn’t support the airport one hundred percent.”