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Airport upgrades continue

WINTON – It has served the Roanoke-Chowan well for decades, but it showing its age.

Plans to upgrade Tri-County Airport continue to gain steam, the latest coming via a $150,000 federal grant for a major capital improvement project.

At a meeting here last week, Hertford County Manager Loria Williams briefed the county commissioners on the pending project.

“We annually appropriate $18,000 to Tri-County Airport as part of our county budget and our share to help operate the airport,” Williams said. “This year, airport officials are requesting $20,000. This additional $2,000 is to provide a share of money needed to match a grant they have received.”

Commissioner Johnnie Ray Farmer, who is a member of the Tri-County Airport Authority, said the grant is to pay a 10 percent match that the three counties share (Bertie and Northampton are the other partners in providing operational costs for the facility).

“The upgrade is to the fuel tanks, fuel cells at the airport,” Farmer explained. “This upgrade brings the airport up to standard in providing fuel to the aircraft.”

Farmer went on to add that in the past, when planes landing at Tri-County to drop off passengers, they were forced to fly to other airports nearby to re-fuel.

“We were able to remedy that problem by upgrading the fuel tanks at Tri-County Airport using the federal grant money,” Farmer said. “However, that grant requires a 10 percent local match, thusly the request for the additional $2,000 to help cover that. Each county will be asked for $2,000.”

The airport’s request for the added funds from Hertford County was approved by the commissioners without objection.

Meanwhile, efforts continue to completely replace the airport’s terminal. The current terminal building is over 40 years old. The roof leaks, wall panels are falling, floor tile is coming up, there are issues with mold, and one of the HVAC systems is not operational.

Also, the square footage of the current terminal is below what is required for the overall size of the airport. Furthermore, the terminal does not meet the current ADA standards or the needs of the economically distressed tri-county area.

An earlier study explored renovating the terminal, but those costs were deemed as overly substantial.

Earlier this year, Ronald Gatling, Chairman of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, sent a letter to Bobby Walston, Director of the NCDOT’s Division of Aviation, one that endorsed an effort by the Tri-County Airport Authority to secure funding from the state to construct a new $1.5 million terminal.

The letter noted that Tri-County Airport serves as an economic hub and catalyst by providing general aviation access to/from the area for corporate clients’ operating facilities within the tri-county area.

It further stated that Tri-County Airport supports the local economy by supporting agriculture, forestry, tourism and corporate activity. Records indicate at least 42 entities and their vendors/customers utilize the facilities at Tri-County Airport. Some of these include Valley Protein, Vidant Roanoke Chowan Hospital, Enviva Pellets, UNC Medical Transport, Nucor Steel, US Armed Forces, Rivers Correctional Institute, NC Wildlife, Perdue Farms and many others.

The NC Forestry Service relies on Tri-County Airport utilizing a fire retardant tank and as an operational base.

According to an April 19, 2017 letter from Tri-County Airport Manager Henry Jordan to Williams, he said, “it does seem that the plans for a new terminal building is actually going to happen.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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