03/22/05 — Mount Olive Airport meeting Wednesday

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Mount Olive Airport meeting Wednesday

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 22, 2005 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The Mount Olive Airport Committee will meet Wednesday morning to rethink its plans to expand the town airport.

Some residents of the Kelly Springs Road area, which borders the northern end of the airport runway, are opposed to extension plans that call for closing a section of the road. But extending the runway to the south also poses problems, and committee members said they want to study their options.

The state Department of Transportation wants the town to make the airport runway 5,000 feet long, and that has been the committee's goal.

The runway currently is 4,250 feet, with 250 feet displaced. That means you can use it to take off, but you cannot land on it. In the past year, the town has added 150 feet to the south end and 400 feet to the north end.

"We're 400 feet short of being able to fit a 5,000 foot runway between Kelly Springs and Northeast Church roads," said the airport committee's engineer, Jay Talbert.

Talbert said that, if the runway is extended to the south, two houses on Northeast Church Road would have to be moved.

Another option would be re-routing Kelly Springs Road to the north, but that would cost about $300,000, town officials have been told, and the state Department of Transportation would not pay for it.

The Federal Aviation Administration "strongly recommends" the town own the land near the end of each end of the runway for safety reasons, Talbert said. Even if the town paid for the removal of the two homes that are in the path of a southern extension, there would be noise issues involving the other homes in the neighborhood, he pointed out.

Talbert said he has drawn up three proposals for re-routing Kelly Springs Road. He said he has even heard the suggestion that a tunnel be built beneath the runway to keep the road in place.

Joe Wilson lives near the northern end of the runway. He and some of his neighbors discussed the issue with Mount Olive and Wayne County officials Monday morning.

Wilson said he has no problem with the runway extension. But he said that after years of discussion, plans have begun to move forward rapidly.

"Things have happened quick," Wilson said, adding that he has heard conflicting reports about what the airport committee plans to do.

Committee Chairman Bob Quinn said that expansion plans were dormant for several years because of a lack of funding from state and federal sources. But federal money became available last year, prompting the committee to push ahead. That money has already been allocated, he said, and the committee must look ahead to the next round of possible funding, he said.

The committee wants to develop with a plan that has the support of everyone involved, he said, so that when government money becomes available again, "We'll know what to do, and there won't be all these controversies."

He invited people living near the northern end of the airport runway to attend Wednesday's meeting, which will be held at 9 a.m. in the airport terminal.

Quinn said the committee will talk about a feasibility study and an approach study for both ends of the runway.

Airport Committee Member George Futrelle said the people who live on Northeast Church Road also might want to come to the committee meetings to stay informed about what's going on with the new runway expansion plan.