04/28/05 — Mt. Olive airport extension study needed

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Mt. Olive airport extension study needed

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 28, 2005 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE --The Mount Olive Airport Committee will find out how much it will cost to have an engineer compare options for extending the airport runway.

The new study will help the committee choose in which direction to add another 700 feet to the runway to reach the 5,000 feet necessary to accommodate larger jets.

An original plan to go north by closing Kelly Springs Road, which borders the northern end of the airport, ran into opposition. Joe Wilson, a farmer who has fields that would be split in half by the closing of the road, asked the committee in March to rethink closing it. Wednesday morning, the airport committee voted to have engineers gather data to reassess the possibility of going south.

"You're going to shift all this stuff on us to get it off the town. I understand that," Wilson said Wednesday about the original plan. "I just can't see why you don't look at the other end."

The southern extension posed problems, committee member and town manager Ray McDonald Jr. said. He said much of the master plan was developed from an environmental impact study that found several reasons for extending the rest of the runway north rather than south.

McDonald said the alternative recommended by the engineers lessened the social impact, minimized airspace conflicts, was best for drainage and had less effect on animal habitats. The proposal also took less farmland out of operation and would not require relocating homes like the southern extension would. Two houses might have to be moved, and a radio station tower would also be in the way if the runway were expanded to the south.

"You're never going to make everybody happy," McDonald said.

A new environmental impact study would have to be done before the airport committee could choose between the options. The engineers did an environmental assessment only on the option recommended, which extended the runway 150 feet south and another 1,250 north. The proposal included two ways to deal with Kelly Springs Road -- reroute it, which the state Aviation Division said it would not pay for, or close it, which the Wayne Transportation Committee favored.

McDonald said a new traffic count would have to be done on Kelly Springs and Northeast Church roads before Kelly Springs could be closed. He said the master plan showed a traffic count was last performed in October 2003. The Kelly Springs count was 700 cars per day, while Northeast Church Road handled 2,300.

The airport committee had been reluctant to have the engineering consultant, Talbert and Bright, conduct another study. The consultant told them it would cost $9,800 to study the issue again and another $2,000 to find out what approaches the pilots would have to take to land coming in from the south.

The airport has about $33,000 left in federal grant money allocated for the runway extension.

The Duplin County Municipal Airport was in the same situation several years ago, said committee member George Futrelle, who manages the facility.

"We wrung our hands, having to pay engineers," he said.

"Remember the master plan. We ended up with doing it for half the original quote," McDonald said. He and Town Clerk Arlene Talton did much of the work and ended up saving $15,000, he added.