Commissioners Hear About Airport Needs
Back-to-back U.S. Open golf tournaments are scheduled in 2014, but from the standpoint of the Moore County Airport Authority, the time is already here.
Airport Director Ron Maness outlined almost $10 million in improvements needed to take full economic advantage of the twin tournaments to highlight the Sandhills region in three years.
“We’ve got a rare opportunity here,” said Maness in a presentation to the Moore County Board of Commissioners at a Jan. 13 budget retreat at the Senior Enrichment Center.
What the airport does not have is funding to cover the cost of expanding the general aviation ramp, extending runways and making other improvements.
Federal grants in million dollar lump sums, supplemented by state and local matches, have been discontinued since the airport lost airline passenger service in 2002. Between 1990 and 2009 the airport was the recipient of $24.6 million in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration. The state added another $2 million, bringing the total to $26.7 million. The county provided a five-percent match, exceeding $1.3 million during this period.
However, the airport is otherwise self-supporting and receives no operational costs from the county.
The airport continues to receive some FAA funding along with grants from the N.C. Department of Transportation Division of Aviation, but not in the multi-million dollar range. There is the prospect for a $2.5 million grant from NCDOT for the ramp expansion, but Carol Thomas, airport assistant director, said the grant won’t be awarded until bids are in hand and the exact cost is known.
Maness said these improvements are critical needs if the county expects to reap the greatest economic benefit from the U.S. Men’s and U.S. Women’s Opens in 2014.
“This is going to be huge for the community,” Maness said.
It was estimated that the airport has financial obligations of almost $500,000, including $217,000 in U.S. Open costs and $252,000 for replacement equipment.
“This airport is the economic gateway to the county,” Maness said.
Maness said he recognized the county’s tight financial situation but said the sluggish economy has also had a negative effect on the airport. For example, fuel sales have dropped 56 percent in the past two years. Fuel sales are a major source of income for the airport. Other sources of income are hangar and storage rentals, aircraft fees, flight training, commercial service and business tenants.
To save operational costs, the airport has reduced staffing to seven full-time and 14 part-time personnel and has reduced operating hours.
“We are as lean as we can possibly be at this point,” he said.
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