07/29/05 — Committee OKs survey work for airport expansion

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Committee OKs survey work for airport expansion

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on July 29, 2005 1:50 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Town officials are putting together a contract for a surveyor to study both ends of the runway at the Mount Olive airport.

The 4,300-foot runway needs another 700 feet to reach the 5,000 feet necessary to accommodate larger jets. The airport committee had planned to extend the runway north across Kelly Springs Road, but opposition from the neighbors to the north caused the members to look in the other direction. The committee is currently considering moving the extension south, but the town needs a survey of both ends of the runway before that can happen.

Committee members learned Tuesday morning during a meeting at the airport that it will cost about $3,000 for Aiken and Yelle of Raleigh to do the survey work. The committee had previously approved hiring the company and gave airport manager Mike Bass permission to finalize the details.

Bass said once the work starts, it will take a couple of weeks.

A delegation from the airport committee will then meet with John Caldwell in Raleigh. Caldwell manages airport projects for the N.C. Department of Transportation's Aviation Division.

Committee members met with Caldwell a couple of months ago to discuss whether to extend the runway north or south. Caldwell told the group if their first objective was to reach 5,000 feet rather than worrying about approach issues, it would be easier to go south than north. The group came back to the airport committee last month and suggested extending the runway to 7,000 feet.

Airport committee member George Futrelle, who presided over the meeting Tuesday in the absence of the chairman, Bob Quinn, said another delegation from the airport committee and the engineer should visit Caldwell after the survey is completed and find out where to go from there. The airport committee will have to update the master plan, and it might have to update the environmental assessment that has already been done at the north end of the runway.

"Once we meet in Raleigh, we can start afresh," he said.

Mount Olive Town Manager Ray McDonald said it is imperative for everyone on the airport committee to be in agreement about whatever is done.

"We're trying to go with something that makes everybody happy," he said. "I think (Caldwell) sees our dilemma, and he's for us. He has a renewed interest in this project."

McDonald said engineering expenses will be steep, and then the airport committee is going to have to talk to several property owners about buying land at the south end of the runway. He said the town has no choice but to have the survey work done, but the project needs to be scheduled so the town can pay for the work as it is done.

Project engineer Marty Wynn of Talbert and Bright airport consultants told the committee the engineering cost to plan the 700-foot southern extension will be about $250,000.