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Airport board approves building four new hangars

The Rowan County Airport Board on Friday approved construction of four new, medium-sized hangars at the facility at a cost of $1.07 million.

The vote to build the hangars was unanimous. Next, the proposal heads to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, who will decide on how to fund the project. A loan is an option for construction. Another is using money from the county’s fund balance.

Much of the discussion on the proposal during Friday’s regularly scheduled meeting was about economics. One of the airport’s hangars houses helicopters for the North Carolina Highway Patrol. Airport director Thad Howell said the highway patrol is currently looking to relocate to another facility because of the difficulty required to get the helicopters in and out of the hangar.

“They are actively shopping other airports,” Howell said. “The hangar that they’re in now is in an alleyway and they have to tow their helicopter through the alley, sometimes there’s vehicles and small aircraft. They would like to relocate as part of a lease renewal.”

If county commissioners choose to approve construction of the hangars, a private plane owned by the Wallace and Graham law firm would occupy one of the hangars. The highway patrol would use another. The other two could be occupied by a private company that hasn’t yet signed a contract. Commissioner Craig Pierce, who serves as a liaison to the airport board, declined to say after the meeting whether the private company is related to an economic development matter at the airport that’s been discussed in closed session multiple times by commissioners.

The hangars would measure 62 feet by 65 feet, considered a medium-sized hangar, according to Howell. Pierce and airport board members said the medium sized hangars were preferred over T hangars, which are smaller.

“I’ve just seen too much growth out here that I think we’re missing the boat sometimes because we don’t have that intermediate hangar space,” he said. “It’s foolish to me to keep building small hangars. That essentially says we’re going to be a small airport.”

For construction on the hangars to happen, commissioners would first have to decide on a funding method. Pierce said obtaining loan proposals and a Local Government Commission approval would be the most likely option. Rent from leasing the hangars would pay for the cost of loan repayment, he said. Another option he mentioned was using money from the fund balance to pay construction costs.

Pierce said using money from the fund balance wouldn’t necessarily be a net financial negative for Rowan County, as a piece of property on Julian Road and another near the fairgrounds were recently sold.

In other business from the meeting:

• The board postponed action on deciding how or if Boss Aircraft Refinishers could build an office inside of the hangar it rents.

One of the things mentioned about the proposal during the meeting was that building interior offices would take up valuable space in the hangar that could be used for aircraft. Another was that the office would be an aesthetic project rather than serve a function for the hangar.

• The board elected a chairman and vice chairman.

Ronald Steelman was elected chairman of the board and Addison Davis was elected the vice chairman.

After the board voted, Steelman talked about ways to improve the airport’s operations. Among his ideas was trying to streamline the process for approving projects.

• Howell told the board it may have to consider options to make a signal beacon, which helps aircraft visually locate the airport, more visible.

Three options mentioned were increasing the beacon’s vertical height, relocating it and cutting down trees — some of which are on private property.

The board didn’t take any action on the beacon.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

 

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