Club hears update on airport improvement plansBy Emily Beckett Published 3:35pm Monday, March 31, 2014
Chilton County Airport Authority board member Billy Singleton and chairman Craig Cleckler spoke to the Clanton Lions Club on Friday and answered members’ questions about project plans for improvements at the airport.
Improvements include extending and resurfacing the runway and upgrading the lighting system.
Singleton and Cleckler told club members the airport did not meet minimum safety standards in previous years and, as a result, was placed on a list of airports facing possible closure in 2004.
“We were at the point we had to do something or Chilton County wasn’t going to have an airport,” Cleckler said.
In cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration, City of Clanton and Chilton County Commission, Singleton, Cleckler and others have spearheaded efforts to bring the airport up to minimum safety standards to keep it open.
They got involved with the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) to secure grants to fund the airport’s improvements.
Singleton said the airport expects to receive between $1.4 and $1.8 million in grants this year.
To comply with FAA regulations, a difficult decision Airport Authority members had to make was to prohibit the annual Chilton County Fair from being held in its long-time location near the airport due to dangers associated with fairgoers being too close to the runway and fair rides being obstructions.
“[These are] some of the things we’ve had to do to continue to get federal dollars to keep this airport,” Cleckler said. “We had to address the fair.”
Singleton said the airport is now fully in compliance and meets all minimum safety standards.
“We had to make the airport safe for all users,” Singleton said.
Since 2004, the Chilton County Airport Authority has purchased more than 35 parcels of property to allow for extending the runway to 5,000 feet.
Some of the property belonged to residents who voluntarily agreed to vacate their homes and sell them to the airport.
Club members Lally Bates and Larry Culpepper, who live near the airport and Lay Dam Road, asked Singleton and Cleckler if the runway expansion would affect their homes in the future.
Singleton and Cleckler said the airport has not and will not acquire any residents’ homes and property without their full consent to sell and move.
“We’re going to come to you first,” Singleton said. “We’ll be working with property owners before any asphalt goes on the ground.”
Singleton said the airport hopes to complete the runway expansion by 2016.
“Especially to the property owners, change comes hard,” Cleckler added. “We’re doing everything we can out here to keep the public involved. Our job is to take care of the county and these people.”
Singleton said the FAA has approved the Chilton County Airport’s published Airport Layout Plan and will decide what the next step is in the project.
“We will move forward in a way that benefits the county,” Singleton said. “We want to establish the airport as a good first impression of Chilton County.”
The Airport Layout Plan is displayed in the airport administration building and can be viewed during normal business hours.
For more information, contact Billy Singleton at (205) 389-0864.