With runway construction underway, airport seeks stability in ownership

Published 12:38 am Friday, May 23, 2008

By Staff
Plymouth lobbies Washington County to help support airport
Staff Writer
PLYMOUTH — The debate over the ownership of Plymouth Municipal Airport rages on.
The Plymouth Town Council met Wednesday night with Rick Barkes, manager of airport development for the Aviation Division of the N.C. Department of Transpotation, to discuss the possibility of giving ownership or partial-ownership of the airport to Washington County.
The transfer of ownership has been a topic of debate between the council and the Washington County Board of Commissioners. The airport is currently in the midst of a major overhaul, with phase two of a three-phase renovation plan under way. Phase two of the plan calls for the extension of the airport’s runway from 3,700 feet to 5,500 feet.
The extended runway will facilitate personal, business/corporate and small freight jets.
The runway will make the airport a viable general-aircraft airport. GA airports are estimated at a value of $15 million to their communities, according to Barkes.
Taxpayers often question the value of a general-aircraft airport, according to Barkes.
Councilwoman Mary Ann Byers thinks taxpayers need to focus on the job opportunities that come with a general-aircraft airport.
While extension of the current runway will make the airport jet-compatible, phase three of the project will make it more attractive to businesses.
That phase calls for the construction of additional hangars, a maintenance facility, improvements to the taxiway, fuel-farm updates, security fencing and lighting.
The council has been lobbying the county to take ownership or partial ownership of the airport before construction of phase three begins. The council believes that the county has more resources at it’s disposal to make phase three, and the airport, a success.
Barkes has been witness to successful airport transfers from town to county, he said.
Barkes cautioned the council about transferring ownership or giving partial ownership to the county while construction continues on phase two.
One problem with giving sole ownership of the airport to the county has to do with land property around the airport, according to Roth.
Barkes agreed that the state would probably forbid the county from declaring it so.
Byers sad she wants to see the town and county work together to make the airport a success, but still has concerns.