Commissioners OK construction of new airport hangar

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Rowan County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a contract for a $2 million speculative building that might soon be filled.

The building is a 15,000-square-foot hangar at the Rowan County Airport. Commissioners unanimously approved a contract for construction of the hangar with a bevy of discussion about why it would be beneficial despite the large cost.

The hangar would be nearly identical to one that’s already located at the Rowan County Airport.

Before voting in favor of the proposal, Commissioner Judy Klusman elicited responses from other commissioners and Airport Director Thad Howell about the benefits of the building.

“I think that our citizens are probably thinking that is an awful lot of money,” Klusman said of the $2 million cost. “What kind of estimates are we looking at for revenue?”

Howell said the hangar would immediately house $10 million worth of airplanes after it’s constructed. Howell said he is currently speaking with three private airplane owners who would want to locate in the new hangar.

Klusman mentioned that some Rowan residents might rather see the $2 million given to the school system. Commissioner Craig Pierce responded, saying $2 million given to the school system would likely be a recurring cost. The hangar would be a one-time cost.

Pierce called it an investment opportunity and said it would make Rowan County a better place for business to locate.  He said building the hangar would “put Rowan County on the map because now you can land a jet at the Rowan County Airport and hangar it overnight.” That wasn’t previously possible, he said.

Depending on the frequency of flights, fuel purchases and value of planes, the total revenue output could vary for the new hangar.

First, however, county commissioners have to pay for the structure.

County Manager Aaron Church said county government currently has $1.8 million set aside to pay for an office building on the existing 15,000-square-foot hangar and the speculative building. The office building is estimated to cost between $900,000 and $1.2 million, according to Church.

The remainder of allocated money — a maximum of about $900,000 — would be used for the new hangar, Church said. By the time the county would need to spend more money on the hangar, it may be the next fiscal year, Church said.

Pierce said the county wouldn’t be able to take out a loan for the new hangar because of the nature of the project. As a result, money would have to come from the county’s fund balance — partially a savings account — Pierce said.

Engineering firm Talbert, Bright and Ellington has been selected to oversee construction of the new hangar. Site plans show the structure being 50 feet away from the existing 15,000-square-foot hangar, which will also be the site of construction in coming months.

Salisbury-based Ramsay Burgin Smith Architects has been chosen to oversee construction of a 4,200-square-foot office space for Strategic Moves, which has committed to moving from Statesville to Salisbury.

Klusman made the motion to approve a contract with Talbert, Bright and Ellington. Pierce seconded. It passed unanimously.