Final land grant awarded to Gragg-Wade

Published 3:22 pm Monday, March 29, 2010

The Chilton County Airport Authority is nearing the end of a seven-year land acquisition project at Gragg-Wade Field. A $552,930 grant awarded by the Federal Aviation Administration will allow the authority to clear remaining runway obstacles and begin facility improvements.

The grant money will pay for the acquisition of two final parcels on the west side of the runway. It will also fund the removal of obstacles in the flight path of aircraft, such as trees, from the property.

Since 2004, CCAA has acquired approximately 25 acres of property surrounding the airport.

“Everything that we do from this point forward is dependent upon the completion of the land acquisition program,” said Billy Singleton, CCAA member. “We could not move forward on other projects until this was complete.”

Land acquisition was the first phase of a bigger plan to make the airport a safer and better resource for the county. Future goals are to resurface and re-stripe the entire runway, update the runway lighting system and continue the preservation of historic structures at Gragg-Wade.

The authority cannot apply for further federal grants until Phase 1 is 100-percent complete. Singleton said the authority hopes to meet with FAA representatives within the coming weeks to discuss future phases.

Singleton estimates the acquisition and clearing will take between six and nine months to complete. He said CCAA wants to give affected homeowners time to relocate.

“It’s quite a lengthy process,” he said. “There’s quite a bit of work we have to do after the (land) purchase.”

Singleton added that property owners have been cooperative with during the entire process.

“We hope we’ve done that in a manner that has benefited both property owners and the airport,” he said.

The grant was part of a total $7.7 million allocated among 34 regional airports in Alabama for infrastructure improvements.

The grants were announced by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby’s office Monday.

“Investing in the infrastructure of Alabama’s regional airports will not only provide the safest and most efficient transportation services for Alabamians, but also ensure that the area remains desirable for residents and businesses,” Shelby said. “This grant will provide funding to help Alabama’s regional airports make improvements that are necessary to accommodate those traveling to, from, and through our great state.”