The state of Georgia is offering some state funding for a runway extension at the Newnan-Coweta County Airport, but the county is politely declining.
Instead, the Coweta County Board of Commissioners will ask if the budget money can be used for strengthening the runway or building new hangars.
The runway extension money was included in Gov. Nathan Deal’s amended fiscal year 2018 budget.
The runway extension is a long-term project, and it was anticipated to someday be built with federal money, with a required 10 percent local “match."
State funding, on the other hand, requires a 25 percent match. And on the approximately $6 million project, that increased match is around $900,000 – money the county was not anticipating spending.
In addition, the runway extension is not a particularly high-priority project.
A much higher priority is strengthening the runway so that the airport can accommodate larger, heavier planes. There is also a need for new hangars on the east side of the airport, said Calvin Walker, airport manager.
“We have leased all available space,” Walker said.
The runway currently has a weight capacity of 39,000 pounds. The authority would like to raise that up to about 68,000 pounds, Walker said.
A big part of the proposed runway expansion is attracting larger planes to the airport – but some of those planes wouldn’t be able to use the existing portion of the runway, anyway.
Runway strengthening was budgeted back in 2005, Walker said, but there were budget cuts and “we wound up with just an overlay."
Tod Handley, public works director, said core sampling would be needed to know just how much additional asphalt would be required to strengthen the runway. But using six inches as an estimate, the project would cost around $2.5 million. Handley said Walker was familiar with a similar project that cost $2 million.
Chairman Al Smith asked what being able to land larger and heavier planes would mean for the airport.
It can bring economic development into an area, according to Walker. Larger Falcon and Gulfstream aircraft are associated with larger businesses. And when businesses look to locate somewhere, they look for places to house their planes, Walker said.
“We appreciate the governor and his staff including us in this,” said Commissioner Tim Lassetter. “We’d love to be able to use some of these funds on these other projects."
Lassetter said the members of the airport authority “feel the payback would be much greater” for the alternate projects than the runway extension.
The commissioners will submit a letter to the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Aviation Program declining the funds for the runway extension and respectfully asking if they can be used for the other projects.
“It’s very generous of the governor and GODT to consider that,” said Commissioner Bob Blackburn.