Airport Marks Groundbreaking for New Hangars
Heavy equipment was already moving soil Wednesday morning when the Moore County Airport Authority held a "groundbreaking" ceremony for construction of new hangars.
Under the $1.8 million contract, Primax Construction Inc. will build two hangar structures that will provide slots for an additional 17 aircraft on an acre north of the existing hangars.
"This place really has the potential for economic development," said Hugh Bingham, authority member-treasurer, during a brief program held in the Nash Terminal Building prior to the groundbreaking ceremony. "We hope to put our best foot forward."
Authority Chairman John Owen said that all space in the soon-to-be-built hangars is already spoken for and the authority has a waiting list.
With completion of the new hangars, the airport will have a total of 80 aircraft "parking" slots. This means additional rental revenues for the airport, along with revenues in the form of fuel sales and landing fees. It also means revenue for the county, which collects personal property taxes on aircraft registered in Moore County and on sales taxes generated by airport business.
"This airport will be the greatest component of tourism," Owen said. "We've got to get air service back in."
Owen said later that the task force is continuing to work on the air passenger service effort and expressed the hope that an airline will be attracted to the Moore County Airport once the economy improves.
Delta provided passenger service for about a year but pulled out in late 2007. Passenger service is regarded as a vital need for the tourism industry, a major economic factor for Moore County. Before that, US Airways Express had provided commuter service. It terminated service to Moore County in 2002 in the wake of 9/11, which worsened an already sluggish economy.
Among the guests for the ceremony was Colin McKenzie, former chairman of the Moore County Board of Commissioners and a longtime supporter of the airport. He was commended for his perseverance in supporting the authority's efforts to build the hangars.
"I think what we're doing here is the right thing to do," said McKenzie, a retired Army colonel and former pilot.
Jimmy Melton, vice chairman of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, added his praise and quipped that he was appreciative of their hard work and dedication "especially for what you're paid." Authority members receive no remuneration for their service.
"It would have been real easy to throw in the towel and walk away," Commissioner Larry Caddell said. "If we're going to be a progressive county, we need a good airport."
The Wednesday event was the first public occasion for use of the new driveway to the terminal from the recently realigned N.C. 22-Airport Road route.
Caddell said he travels that route frequently and called the roundabout replacing the old signal light intersection "a blessing." He said the drive around the small circle is easy and rarely requires a long stop.
"It's a real advantage," he said. "We couldn't have done it without the airport."
The N.C. 22-Airport Road realignment is a 3.3-mile project financed by the Federal Aviation Administration to bring the Runway 5 approach into compliance with FAA requirements for the runway safety area, runway object-free area, and the inner-approach obstacle free zone. The FAA funded 95 percent of the $6.1 million cost of the project with the remaining 5 percent shared by the N.C. Department of Transportation Division of Aviation and the county. FAA grant funds are generated primarily by taxes on airline fuel and airline tickets.
However, the highway realignment is unrelated to the hangar project, which is strictly an enterprise of the authority.
It was one in a series of airport issues debated at length by the Board of Commissioners in the previous two years. The authority asked the county for a loan to build additional hangars. Authority members argued that hangar rentals make money for the airport and the project would pay for itself through those payments within a matter of years.
Airport operators reported that the long waiting list for space in the existing hangars was prompting some aircraft owners to rent space at the Lee County Airport and other nearby facilities, a practice that diverts revenue away from Moore County.
The board turned down that request but allowed the authority to seek a bank loan independent of the county. The authority was allowed to apply the equivalent of taxes collected on aircraft listed in Moore County and sales taxes toward payment of the loan.
The $1.8 million loan was secured through BB&T and is to be repaid within 15 years.
The Charlotte-based Primax Construction has offices in Olmsted Village and is also the contractor for the TJ Maxx building in Southern Pines.
Primax officials said the hangars are to be complete on or before July 1. Construction began Monday. One building will house 12 T-hangars; the other will accommodate five executive hangars.
Airport Executive Director Gary Barnum coordinated the ceremony. His special assistant, Carol T. Thomas, is project manager for the hangars.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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