Commissioners OK $2 million airplane hangar

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 20, 2016

County Commissioners on Tuesday didn’t talk for long when it was time to approve a $2 million hangar at the Rowan County Airport.

Briefly, commissioners talked about the possibility of adding office space later and double checked site plans. Commissioners Craig Pierce and Judy Klusman then pounced with a motion and second, respectively. The most expensive construction project in months passed unanimously. Next up, the county will solicit bids for construction.

The airport hangar is estimated to be about 15,000 square feet, cost $2 million and sit next to another, nearly identical community hangar. It will fit the kinds of large, multi-million-dollar jets commissioners hope to attract to the Rowan County Airport.

To some extent, they’ve already succeeded in their efforts to lure private business to the airport. Last year, commissioners signed Strategic Moves to a lease at the largest hangar in the airport.

There were already a number of small private airplanes looking for T-hangars. Now, commissioners Chairman Greg Edds and other county officials say the corporate interest in the Rowan County airport is equally significant.

Edds framed the interest in space at the Rowan County Airport as so significant that county officials are turning down offers because there’s no space.

“There’s simply not one single hangar space available,” he said.

Initially, county officials considered building a number of small hangars. Then discussions shifted to larger, box hangars. With the potential to lure large jets, a 15,000-square-foot community hangar was the final choice. Tuesday’s vote wasn’t a hasty choice to proceed with a project estimated to cost $2 million, but instead proceeding with a project that’s been discussed for more than a year, according to Edds.

Commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Greene said commissioners aren’t discounting the significant projected price tag. The $2 million, however, will be repaid in about 10 years Greene said. Among other things, the cost will be repaid through property tax on airplanes, leases for space in the hangar and fuel, Greene said.

“If I was a businessman and able to invest that kind of money and get a return on my investment in 10 years, I’d say it was a smart decision,” Greene said.

County Manager Aaron Church said the second community hangar is on schedule. The county will solicit bids for construction on Jan 30, Church said. When bids come in on March 1 — the projected date — Rowan County will know the exact cost of the hangar.

The hangar will sit near the southeastern edge of the airport, adjacent to Airport Loop Road. It will include a bathroom, fire suppression system and small office. A small parking lot will sit next to the new hangar, according to site plans.

There’s no pre-determined tenant, but Edds said an expansion by Strategic Moves could quickly fill a new hangar to its capacity.

In other business from Tuesday’s meeting:

• Rowan County commissioners approved a permit for a cell tower near the intersection of Neel Road and Mooresville Road.

The cell tower will be a 195-foot monopole. Verizon wireless is scheduled to be the first company to use the pole.

A lengthy portion of discussion about the proposal focused on whether the pole would damage other property if it collapsed. Presenters weren’t able to say whether the pole would strike a building it it collapsed completely — an incident they said would be rare.

Although several people left immediately after the cell tower presentation — the first action item not on the consent agenda — no one spoke against the cell tower proposal.

• Commissioners approved a measure that would pay engineering firm McGill Associates $47,800 to oversee a portion of planning for a county-owned water and sewer system. according to Tuesday’s agenda documents.

Among other things, McGill Associates would conduct a preliminary study and draft an engineering report, Edds said.

• Commissioners approved a settlement and release agreement that terminated the sale of a building formerly housing Social Services.

Faith Assembly International Ministry, which has a church in Salisbury, made an offer to buy the building last year. However, the church didn’t complete the sale.

The agreement states Rowan County will keep $5,000 of a $15,000 deposit paid for the building.

• Commissioners held a closed session to have a phone conversation with an unnamed economic development prospect.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.