Flying toward airport expansion?

Tia Lynn Ivey News

Millions of dollars could be coming to the City of Madison from the State of Georgia to fund the long-awaited airport runway expansion project.

According to City Manager David Nunn, who relayed the opportunity to the Madison Mayor and City Council at Monday night’s regular meeting, Governor Nathan Deal identified Madison as one of 10 airports in the State of Georgia to provide “significant funds” for the purpose of airport improvements. The city has wanted to extend the airport’s runway from 3800 feet to 5000 for years. But according to Nunn, the governor’s offer comes with a catch that may be prohibitive for the city.

“This project is complicated and has some challenges,” said Nunn.

According to Nunn, the funding match required by the state could be too much for the city to take on.

“A 25 percent match of several million dollars is a lot of money,” warned Nunn.

Nunn also identified the state’s deadline for the funds as problematic.

“The project will require plans, permitting and bidding be done in a very short period of time, namely June 30 of this year…our engineer is working on the possibility but we cannot even start working on this until we figure out if this can be done. This is very, very aggressive.”

Nunn noted that the city may want to hold out for federal funds, which would only require a 5 percent match from the city.

“If we bide our time and wait, we may be able to get federal money in the future,” said Nunn. “But we said we will go through the exercise and will look to see what’s possible.”

Nunn also noted that when the city met with representatives from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), the reps admitted that extending the airport’s runway would be a more challenging endeavor compared to the other airports they reviewed in Georgia.

“They admitted ours would be the most challenging,” said Nunn, who identified a “precipitous drop-off” that is currently at the end of the runway as the problem.

“There may not be enough dirt in Morgan County to fill it to extend the runway 1200 feet,” joked Nunn. “We are going to move ahead with all haste, but we also have to be prudent and figure this out. We may be able to do it, but we may not.”

Madison Mayor Fred Perriman inquired about the necessity of this project at Monday night’s meeting.

“How beneficial would that airport be to Madison for us to put that much money into it?” asked Perriman.

Nunn believes the airport project is an inevitable necessity for the city’s economic health and growth.

“I still think the airport is a vital part of our transportation network and I think it will only become more important as time goes on,” said Nunn.  “Just the fact that we are one of very few airports in the state [with a runway] that is less than 5000 feet shows that we need to address it either now if we can or continue to move toward that in coming years.”

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