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Airport's future up in the air

By Staff
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
An initial study on the future of Hartselle's airport would cost between $25,000-$40,000 with the city footing the entire bill.
Representatives from Volkert and Associates, an engineering firm specializing in transportation issues, made a presentation to a full house Monday at city hall. Volkert's presentation included information on expanding the airport and the possibility of relocating the facility.
Volkert's Mike Helmsing said the first phase of the study would include gathering information on the airport's needs and the impact changes would have on the environment and community.
"This would get you to the point where you could go to the federal government," Helmsing said.
The Federal Aviation Administration must approve any major airport changes, such as expanding the runway. The city also hopes the FAA would help pay for any additions.
The next phase of the program would include more detailed studies of the current facility and possibly site selection if the airport were moved. That phase could cost as much as $200,000.
"The sponsor (the city of Hartselle) would pay for it (the study), unless there's enough interest and you can get the federal government or the state involved," Helmsing said.
Mayor Clif Knight said he had contacted neighboring cities about the possibility of helping to fund the study, but they had declined.
The airport controversy has erupted in recent years due to complaints from residents who live near the facility. Residents say the planes fly too low and are too loud and most said they were against any expansion.
But the concerns about expansion were unjustified, said airport officials, who said many of the residents had received bad information about the plans.
The airport is currently rated B-1, allowing it to take planes up to 12,500 pounds and 49 foot wingspan. According to Hartselle Airport Manager Stoney Powell, there are no plans to change these limits. He said the runway extension is included in a long-term plan first drawn up in 1973, but is not an immediate project.
Councilman Dick Carter reiterated that the airport would not be expanded into a major facility.
"There's not going to be cargo planes flying into Hartselle," Carter said.
Airport officials are hoping to attract smaller planes to facility and are constructing 16 new private hangars. The cost of the construction will be $600,000-700,000 and will be paid by Powell's company, Blackstone Rotorcraft,
There are currently five airports within an hour's drive of Hartselle and Helmsing said that could limit options for expanding or moving the airport. But the bigger limitation would be money, according to Carter.
"We, as the city of Hartselle, can't afford it (the study," he said. "Until others decide to help, we can't afford it."