Long-term projects eyed for airport

Consultant Carey Hardin (left) reviews changes to the McCharen Field master plan with Mayor Robbie Robinson, City Manager Randy Jones and City Inspector Jeremy Klutts.
Staff Writer

While the next project is a relatively small one, West Point city leaders already are thinking big when it comes to upgrades to the city's airport -- McCharen Field  -- even if some of the work might be years away.

The board authorized City Manager Randy Jones to pursue the current project, which will replace the runway lights with more energy-efficient LED lights. Two drainage areas that separate the major taxiway and parking areas near the fuel center and terminal area will be filled in and paved over.

"It'll change the whole look of that area," said airport consultant Carey Hardin, of Starkville-based Clearwater Consultants.

"It'll save us a great deal of money on electricity because the lights are so much more efficient," Jones added.

The Federal Aviation Administration will pay 90 percent of the costs while the state chips in 5 percent and the city must pay the remaining 5 percent. It's part of the annual Airport Improvement Program grants that total up to $150,000.

In the meantime, Jones and other city leaders are looking to the future with more hangar space and eventually a runway extension among the big-ticket items on the wish list. The airport might also acquire some land to the south along the east side of the runway and as many as 30 acres to the northwest for eventual expansion and to protect flight patterns.

"We are small-time right now, but we need to start putting these things into our master plan for the FAA," Jones said.

"We've got room for one more hangar and then we'll have to get more land. If we had the hangar tomorrow, we could fill it. I've had a waiting list for 12 years," he said of the demand for hangar space at the airport which is located just west of Highway 45 Alternate on the souther edge of the city.

The runway extension to the south would allow small corporate jets to use the airport, meeting a demand that will only continue to grow.

"Whether they are flying in to play golf or visit one of the local industries or look at industry sites or to go to football or basketball games, we are seeing more of a demand and need for them to be able to land here instead of having to go to GTR (Golden Triangle Regional)," Jones told the board, noting the fuel center has been a big attraction.

"It has the potential for tremendous economic impact. We already get a lot of use out of our shuttle car, letting people land at the airport, drive it to their hotel, stay the night and fly out the next day," he continued.

Meanwhile, a company with lots of experience working in West Point wins the contract to line almost a mile of underground sewer pipes with a long-lasting sealant. And modern technology helped save taxpayer dollars on the project.

Selectmen Tuesday night awarded Suncoast Infrastructures a $132,807.15 contract for 4,800 feet of pipe along Church Hill Road east from Church Hill Elementary. The project all will be done from city manholes, meaning streets won't have to be damaged, according to Stanley Spradling of Calvert-Spradling Engineers.

Suncoast did the last lining project along Main and Commerce Streets three years ago and has been a subcontractor in the city on projects done by Columbus-based Perma Corp, Spradling said.

Spradling had estimated the project would cost $150,000. The other two bids were at or slightly above that estimate.

"I'm comfortable with these bids. They are all good companies," Spradling told the board.

The city used video technology to survey the pipe as part of the design for the project. That allowed companies to better know on what they were bidding and give lower prices, Spradling said.

The work should be done by this spring.