Airport receives grant of more than $100,000

Published 2:57 pm Friday, June 1, 2012

A grant for more than $100,000 could one day be considered a crucial point in the rebirth of the Chilton County Airport.

The grant from the Federal Aviation Administration will be used for drainage improvements and to fund the design phase of a project to extend the airport’s runway.

“This is one of the first couple of steps we’ve taken toward growth,” Craig Cleckler, chairman of the Chilton County Aiport Authority, said about the $116,137 grant. “What we’re looking at ultimately is to extend our runway from 4,008 feet to 5,008 feet. When you do that, 5,000 is kind of a magic number because the private jets and the corporate jets that people use can now use your runway.”

First on the agenda is replacing a drainage pipe under the west end of the runway. The pipe is about 40 years old, Cleckler said, and improved drainage is important because that is the part of the runway that will be extended.

The work will require the closing of the airport for one or two weeks. Cleckler said officials don’t yet know dates for the closing, but he said he hopes the work can be completed by the end of the summer.

“The Chilton County Airport is important to its users and to local economic development,” Congressman Spencer Bachus said in a release to announce the grant. “These projects will help to enhance service and ensure continued growth at the airport.”

After the drainage project, the Airport Authority will work with Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cannon, Inc. out of Dothan on coming up with a plan for extending the runway.

“We’re all very excited about this,” Cleckler said. “We think it is the beginning of some very good things. We know from a lot of studies how perfectly located Chilton County is. The growth of the airport will directly lead to economic growth in Chilton County, and that’s what we’re focused on.”