Commissioners consider airport upgrades, call for more research

Stanly County Airport seeks $1.4 million for more hangars

The Stanly County Airport M.W. Mullinix Terminal. | Photo courtesy N.C. DOT

ALBEMARLE — On Monday night, County Commissioners faced decisions on hanger expansion at the Stanly County Airport, an appointment to the Region F Aging Advisory Committee and a potential new no-wake zone on Badin Lake.

Chairman Bill Lawhon called the meeting to order with all seven of the commissioners present as well as the county manager. Commissioner Joseph Burleson lead the pledge and the invocation. Burleson asked for a moment of silence for the victims of the tragic shooting on Sunday night in Las Vegas. During the invocation Burleson prayed for the families of those victims and at the end of the meeting asked for everyone to remember their families and friends in prayer.

As the business portion of the meeting began, a representative from the Esther House provided statistics of domestic violence cases in Stanly County and asked the commissioners to pass a proclamation to claim October as Domestic Violence Awareness month, and the proclamation passed with a 7-0 vote.

County Manager Andy Lucas requested a proclamation declaring Nov. 7 as “Thank You for Your Service Day” to honor veterans. The Register of Deeds Suzanne Lowder has overseen the annual event for the past three years. The proclamation passed unanimously. This event will take place at the Stanly Commons.

Lucas also presented the request of designation for continuing the process of making an area between Beach Road and Palmerville Road a no-wake zone on Badin Lake. The buoy to mark the no-wake zone will be funded by the locals who reside around the area and not by the taxpayers of Stanly County. The request has to be filed and approved by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. The request passed with a unanimous vote.

The longest discussion of the night came when the Stanly County Airport asked to move forward with a request for $1.4 million in funding for hangar expansion. The airport’s current hangers are at capacity and there is a waiting list of 15 airplanes. Others have called and asked for space, but went to another airport due to the long waitlist. County Manager Andy Lucas suggested having the finance committee calculate an estimated revenue if the airport was to expand its hangar space and compare that with the projected $1.4 million the project will cost to design and construct. The revenue of the airport consists of the rental fee, fuel and tax revenue. The rental fee for smaller planes is $225 to $250 per month, and corporate jet rates begin around $750 a month. Several commissioners stated that there was not enough information provided to make such a large decision with the taxpayer dollars.

Commissioner Ashley Morgan, who is on the aviation committee, was supportive of the project due to the potential economic development impact of additional hangars.

“This is not a build them and they come thing, it is a they are already here,” he said.

The wait list of small planes continues to grow along with corporate jet interests. Morgan was hopeful that after more information is provided at the next meeting, the project will be approved and planning can move forward.

“The Stanly County Airport is very important to our county and extra hangars are needed, but we did not have enough information tonight on the estimated cost versus revenue to make a decision,” said Lawhon.

The commissioners voted 7-0 to have the finance committee calculate the expected cost and revenue, explore financing options, and compare the gap of revenue versus funding need for the project.

“I am looking forward to some improvements of the airport, but we have to make sure we are being good stewards with our taxpayers’ dollars and we will have good return on the investment,” Co-Chairman Joseph Burleson said.

The County Manager and Finance committee are set to present their calculations at the next commissioners meeting.

All seven commissioners voted to appoint William Rigsbee of Albemarle to the Region F Aging Advisory Committee. The meeting agenda included an intended appointment to the Norwood ABC Board, but no appointment was made because no one applied.

The next meeting will take place on Monday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m.