Airport wish list to DOT

Published 7:18 pm Friday, April 6, 2012

If you don’t ask for something, you likely won’t get it.

Before some funding sources, mainly grants, to help pay for planned improvements at the city-owned Warren Field dry up, Washington is asking the N.C. Department of Transportation to consider funding up to $7.5 million for those improvements. The city’s request comes in the form of its submissions to be included in DOT’s 2013-2017 Transportation Improvement Plan.

City officials don’t expect all the items on the list the city sent to DOT to be funded. Submitting the list doesn’t obligate the city to appropriate any money for any or all of the projects, according to a memorandum from Allen Lewis, the city’s public-works director, to the mayor and City Council.

The City Council is scheduled to discuss the matter during its meeting Monday.

“This submission is being made to allow the Division of Aviation to prioritize airport improvement projects throughout the state of North Carolina. Once the Division of Aviation awards grant funds to an airport sponsor, only at that time will you be asked to secure the local matching funds,” reads a letter from John M. Massey, an engineer with Talbert & Bright, the city’s airport engineers, to Lewis.

DOT’s Division of Aviation is recommending $2.65 million in projects during the next three fiscal years. The city is requesting $4.85 million for additional improvement projects spread out over the next five fiscal years.

The projects include, but are not limited to, lengthening of runway 5 ($1.1 million), a runway protection zone to coincide with the runway-lengthening project ($950,000), taxiway and apron lighting ($250,000), a runway protection zone for runway 35 ($150,000), building new hangars for corporate aircraft ($820,000, phase one, and $1.42 million, phase two).

(The complete list of proposed projects may be found by visiting the city’s website, placing the cursor over the “Government” button, selecting “City Council,” selecting “Meeting agendas” and downloading then opening the April 9 agenda listed under Washington City Council. The list is on page 106 of the agenda.)

The council’s scheduled discussion of the proposed improvements the city is expected to submit to DOT comes two weeks after it discussed the city’s future investments in the airport. Council members expressed concern that sources of grant funds the city has used to improve the airport may not be available in the coming months and years, meaning the city faces using its money to pay for proposed improvements.

When the council discussed the city’s Capital Improvement Plan at the end of March, the matter of the airport improvements surfaced.

“We’ve indicated Vision 100 grants in there (Capital Improvement Plan) for next five years of 165 grand plus or minus. The CIP we adopted last year had a substantially larger expenditure for the airport, and I recognize that there is some real concern about the airport and what we are going to do out there,” Councilman Doug Mercer said at the March 26 meeting. “But at the same token, if we’re going to continue to operate that facility, we’re going to have to put some money into it.

That’s the only way it’s ever going to pay its way. Hopefully, with the new requests for proposals that we’ve got going out that we are going to see a difference in the cost of operations from that standpoint. Until we have got an empty hangar sitting out there to rent or we’ve got arrangements and design for a hangar that if somebody comes in we can say, ‘All right, here it is and we’ll build it if you lease if for X numbers of years at such and such a cost.’”

At that meeting, Mayor Archie Jennings said it’s time for the city stop expecting someone else to come in and pay for most of the improvements the city wants at the airport.

“The manager and I were somewhere this past week and the funding agency said, ‘Hey, these grants and things, they’re going away,’” Jennings said March 26. “So, this silver-bullet idea that somebody from D.C. or the state is going to send us a pot of money just because we raised our hand, we’re going to have to take care of our own. We’re going to have to decide how many mouths we can feed and whether the airport is one of them.”

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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