07/30/10 — Airport runway to be repaved

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Airport runway to be repaved

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 30, 2010 1:46 PM

Wayne County officials are anticipating a $3 million grant to repave and strengthen the runway at the Goldsboro-Wayne County Airport -- a project that will force the airport to close for up to two weeks in either August or September.

The $3 million will include a local match of between $250,000 to $350,000 that was included in the county's 2010-11 budget.

County commissioners are expected to award a $2.484 million contract for the work to low-bidder Barnhill Contracting Co., when they meet next week. The contract will be contingent on receipt of grant funding.

"That pavement absolutely needs resurfacing," said County Manager Lee Smith. "We were real fortunate to get that from the state and right now the indications are that that is going to be approved.

"It will require the airport be shut down for a few weeks and require jets to be relocated. We have already worked that out with some owners. We will be pleased to get the project done."

The runway project is one of several -- lighting, security, landscaping, hangar improvements and high-speed cable Internet access -- that the revamped Airport Authority is working on as the county assumes sole ownership and operation of the facility.

The airport was formerly a joint venture of the city and county. But legislation approved by the General Assembly this year amended the city charter and transferred all of the city and authority money ad assets to the county.

In the next legislative session the county will ask that the airport authority be dissolved.

The city had provided no funding for the airport, but had appointed members to the authority board. The funding agents of the airport are the federal government, state and Wayne County.

The airport, hangars, equipment and infrastructure are valued somewhere between $20 million and $30 million. It had been jointly owned by the city and county, and in some cases the authority.

It was announced at last week's special meeting of commissioners that most members of the authority had stepped down to clear the way for the transition of the airport to be operated as a county department.

Smith praised outgoing authority members for their service and dedication to the airport and said there had been no ill will regarding the change. They all said they remain ready to assist if needed, he said.

At their meeting, commissioners appointed Smith, county Finance Officer Pam Holt, Emergency Services Director Joe Gurley, Clerk to the Board Marcia Wilson and county Purchasing Manager Noelle Woods to the authority.

Gurley is in charge of the airport as a county department and Doug Lancaster is airport manager.

The authority met Tuesday afternoon, electing Gurley as chairman, Ms. Woods as vice chairman and Ms. Wilson as secretary-treasurer. Longtime member Paul King remains on the board.

Smith said he already has been questioned about the changes.

"There is no new Airport Authority," he said. "Part of what has occurred by legislation is that all of the assets including money and properties from the city and airport authority have now been transferred to the County of Wayne so the County of Wayne is now the owner and operator of the airport.

"The Wayne County Airport Authority as it exists today is basically a formality. We had a meeting earlier this week. It was to finish transferring some cash that was in checking, to take care of some logistical issues of grants still out there. It has been a seamless transition."

Upcoming authority meetings will be "formalities if there are some things that we need to clean up," he said. The authority will meet on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 2 p.m. in room 458 in the courthouse annex.

One of the improvements, adding high-speed cable for pilots, is a way that the county is trying to be more accommodating to airport users, Smith said.

"The county airport is a calling card," Smith said. "We get a lot of companies that fly into Wayne County. It needs to be a quality airport."

Smith said that when he and other local officials travel they look at other airports and observe what they are doing, even the small things.

He said that Gurley is currently working on some marketing ideas for the airport that is for practical purposes an extension of the Wayne County Development Alliance.

"People fly in and what do they see first?" Smith said. "They have got to see a first-class operation. When you fly $13 million or $14 million jets into an airport you have got to know you feel good about leaving a plane there. When the pilots are here during the day waiting for corporate officials ... Joe is visiting the chamber and these folks for marketing materials and maybe gift certificates for lunch or some golf packages (for the pilots).

"Pilots talk to the owners of those planes. When they fly in they buy fuel and that is the money that we turn around and put back into the airport to make improvements."

Over next month, the authority will talk about changing the airport's name that for now is still the Goldsboro-Wayne Airport.

"There are lots and lots of municipal airports, but what will make us stand out?" he said. "What will people remember?"