07/05/07 — Duplin County firms airport plan

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Duplin County firms airport plan

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on July 5, 2007 1:45 PM

Duplin County Airport Manager George Futrelle knows his parallel taxiway will soon be complete, as well as where future hangers will be located. He also knows that he will soon need a wider runway, better security and more assurance that the land surrounding the airport won't interfere with its operations.

He knows all that because it's all in the Duplin County Airport master plan -- endorsed by the Duplin County Board of Commissioners this week -- that will help direct the airfield's growth and development for the next 15 years.

"We feel it is a good plan," Futrelle said.

Included in it is a map of where future hangers should be located -- "sort of like a subdivision plan," he said.

It also includes the need to finish the parallel taxiway, which is currently under construction.

Once that's done, he is hoping to widen the 6,000-foot-long runway to 100 feet to allow it handle larger aircraft and to bring it into line with Federal Aviation Administration requirements.

Once that is done, the next step will then be to enhance the runway with better approach lighting systems.

Also high on the priority list is security.

Currently an eight-foot fence surrounds most of the open property, but what Futrelle said he really needs are cameras.

Unfortunately, the rules following the money allocated by the FAA for things such as security only allow him to purchase fencing.

"You get more bang for your buck with cameras, and right now, we don't have a whole lot of security other than the sheriff does patrol," he said.

But not all of the plan is so simple and straightforward.

Futrelle also explained that at some point in the near future, the county is going to have to address land use and height restriction issues around the airport, whether through zoning regulations, land easements or land purchases.

"The ends of the runway have to be protected," he said.

It's an effort, he explained, that began several years ago when County Manager Mike Aldridge was the planning director, and the county's Planning Board held a well-attended public hearing on the need for a zoning ordinance in that area.

"It was a little contentious. People in the rural areas are a little reluctant to have the county dictate to them what they can do with their property," Aldridge said.

And so, Futrelle explained, as the county's administration changed "a combination of things kind of put that to the back."

But now the issue's returned, and with more than $8.2 million in construction costs invested in the airport, it's more important than ever, he added.

"That's probably one of the biggest issues we're going to be faced with from an airport standpoint," he said.

Without that assurance that a cellular telephone tower or a subdivision will not be located within that half-mile runway protection zone, he explained, it could become difficult to receive future funding.

"We just need to protect our investment," he said.