$2.5 million in grants enables airport upgrades

Published 5:33 pm Friday, July 12, 2013

The Chilton County Airport will be soaring to new heights later this fall with $2.5 million in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) Aeronautics Bureau.

The Airport Authority, comprised of seven members, five of which are appointed by the Chilton County Commission and two of which are appointed by the Clanton City Council, will utilize two separate grants for three projects after collaborating with both the city and county to secure the grants.

Airport Authority board member Billy Singleton said one of the grants for roughly $900,000 has been approved and will be used for land acquisition to make full use of the airport’s runway.

The land acquisition grant helped purchase six parcels and five homes along Highway 145, adjacent to the airport, providing a clearing path to extend the runway to 4,000 feet.

Currently, the runway is 3,200 feet and the six parcels and five homes will soon be cleared.

Singleton said the Airport Authority wanted to treat the purchasing of the properties “fairly” and everyone along the Highway 145 stretch included in the land acquisition sold their property voluntarily.

The second grant for $1.6 million will improve the runway lighting system by providing additional lighting and upgrading the current lighting that is more than 50 years old.

Singleton said that during the yearly inspection by the ALDOT Aeronautics Bureau several factors were noted as problems for the airport to fix including the lighting system.

“Every light will have to be replaced,” Singleton said. “Right now our lights stay on all of the time but with the new lighting system the pilots will now be able to turn the lights on from their airplane.”

Singleton said the new system will save thousands of dollars due to the lights being able to be turned off unless used by a pilot.

Singleton said 15-20 years ago it was considered “normal” for runway lights to be kept on constantly but airports started upgrading to allowing the pilots to turn them on from their airplanes.

The third project consists of resurfacing the runway and placing new runway markings.

Singleton estimates the airport has not been resurfaced in more than 30 years.

“All of these projects were things that had been noted that we needed to fix so after these are all finished we should have a clean bill of health so to speak,” Singleton said.

One important factor in the projects noted by Singleton and county engineer Tony Wearren was the collaborative effort between the county and city to utilize resources.

After the runway is resurfaced, Wearren will take the recycled asphalt, use it through Recycled Asphalt Product (RAP) and stockpile it for the road department to use for maintenance on county roads.

“This will save the road department about $20,000,” Wearren said. “A lot of people are working together to utilize everything so it can be beneficial for Chilton County. The asphalt would have otherwise been taken to a landfill or some other county and this way we can have it for use in our county.”

Singleton said the airport lighting grant is in the final stages of approval and visible changes to the airport should happen in late August or early September.

“We are excited and thrilled about these projects going on,” Singleton said. “It is unusual to have this large amount of funding in an airport this size and we are very fortunate.”