The River Region's Wave of the Future!
The Wetumpka Herald
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Wetumpka City Council members approved a resolution Monday night allowing the Alabama De part ment of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division to conduct a feasibility study involving the Wetumpka Municipal Airport. The study will determine the costs and benefits of either improving the existing Wetumpka Municipal Airport or developing a new airport for west Elmore County capable of serving corporate aircraft traffic.
“We are ready to get started as soon as you pass your resolution,” Dr. John Eagerton, ALDOT Aeronautics Bureau chief told council members. “I think the structure of that airport is well-documented. Our observation is that the 3,000-foot runway that’s there is what will be there.
“That won’t change, so it’s a question of do you only want a good airport for sports and recreation activities or one that also supports corporate aircraft -- something most cities in Alabama are trying to achieve,” he said.
Eagerton said the situation appears to be uniquely promising.
“This is one of the first opportunities we’ve seen in a long time where it can be gone about in a way to look at the big picture,” he said. “We think Rep. (Barry) Mask’s ideas have a lot of merit. We think this is one of the best ideas we’ve seen in a long time.”
Mask, executive director of the Elmore County Economic De velopment Authority, has pursued the idea for more than a year.
“We’ve had three different industry inquiries from the state development office (about the current airport property),” said Mask. “It is one of only four sites in Alabama that have 250 acres with rail, high-pressure gas and high-volume electricity within 15 minutes of the Interstate.
“If there’s somewhere else the airport could go and be expanded, why not?” he continued. “We want this to be a win-win situation. We don’t want to deprive anyone of what they already have, and we could attract an industry with 300 to 400 jobs and a $20 to 25 million a year payroll.”
Dave Ramsey, who has a land lease and his own hangar at the airport, objected to the council approving the study.
“We have a site that’s perfect for this airport, and there are also five or six businesses there,” said Ramsey. “There’s no guarantee these would move with the airport.
“For every jet business aircraft, there are 100 single-piston business aircraft,” he said. “Those are the guys who create business. And if the airport moves, you’re looking at $10 to $15 million for building and there would probably be an airport authority combined with the county and other cities. It’s been hard enough working with Wetumpka, much less with other cities and the county.”
Councilwoman Kathy Holt (D3) asked Ramsey what problems he had encountered with the city, and noted “you have never been here to address this council since we took office.
“I’ve had calls from a number of pilots who are in favor of this,” she said.
The study will be funded by ALDOT at a cost between $100,000 and $150,000.
Councilman Lewis E. Washington Sr. said he fully supports the study.
“Everyone cries about what they want in our city,” said Washington. “This could affect not just the city but the county and provide new jobs, new taxes, new houses and help schools.
“What do we want in Wetumpka and Elmore County?” he continued. “People say they want hotels, they want to fill vacant businesses, they want more tourism. Here’s the answer.
“We have a representative fighting very hard for this city and county,” Washington said. “The South is a growing area for the auto industry; and we have gas, electricity and water (on the current airport site). We cry about our sons, daughters and grandchildren going elsewhere. This is a great opportunity to do something about that.
“Let’s stop waiting,” he concluded. “We took the lead for technology in schools, now let’s take the lead for a fine new airport.”
Mask said city officials and people with connections to the airport had information about the possibility of a feasibility study for several months.
“Everybody involved has been aware of it,” he said. “Why wait until the last minute to raise objections?
“But some people will be opposed to it tonight, at the next (council) meeting, next year and in five years,” said Mask. “We have met with the president of the local EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) and feel like they left feeling good about this. The fact is this is only the first step in a long process.”
Councilman Ken Ham mock (D1) asked Eagerton what will happen when the study is complete and how the city’s remaining debt on T-hangars be affected.
“We will bring the study results to you, and then you would decide what you want to do,” said Eagerton. “If a decision was made to move the airport, the FAA would probably ask you to commit any proceeds from the old site to the new airport site.”
© 2013 Elmore County Economic Development Authority. All Rights Reserved.