Airport seeking $1.3 million grant

Demopolis Municipal Airport will likely see some changes soon after facility manager Jason Pendergrass received approval from the city council to apply for a $1.3 million grant last week.

“We have a fairly aggressive five-year plan. We don’t know what all we’ll be approved for from the state. The state kind of doles out the federal money, so whatever they see fit they’ll give us,” Pendergrass said. “We’ll ask for it and see what they get. If we don’t get it, we’ll ask for it again next year.”

The airport, which reopened its runway Friday after a six-week repaving project, would see three initiatives completed if the entirety of the grant is approved.

“Three items that we’d like to address this year are obstruction removal, that is removal of trees and obstructions to the flight path of landing and departing airplanes, security fencing to make the airport areas less accessible by unauthorized people and taxiway rehabilitation and widening,” Pendergrass said. “To bring the taxiway up to state and federal standards, it needs to be widened out to 35 feet. It also needs to be rehabilitated. There’s grass growing through the cracks.”

Pendergrass said each of the three measures that would be covered by the grant would address safety concerns. The removal of trees and obstructions is the most pressing of the needs followed by the construction of security fencing and ultimately the widening of the taxiway.

Pendergrass said the taxiway was last repaved approximately fifteen years ago and the runway was previously addressed 18 years ago.

“The taxiway was done with a little bit less asphalt, so it didn’t hold up as long. They both ended up deteriorating to a point that needed to be repaired at the same time,” Pendergrass said.

Pendergrass said the airport would become a much more functional and safer facility for its consumers should all three phases of the grant be approved.

“No. 1, it provides for a safer airport. That’s the biggest factor. Aircrafts landing at night when you can’t see the trees, particularly larger airplanes, when you can’t see the trees it’s an unnerving feeling. It gives you safety. The fencing goes a long way toward safety also. You don’t want to have random cars going across the runway when an airplane is trying to take off or land. Not everybody is even thinking that’s a runway. They just go across it,” Pendergrass said. “The taxiway, being the size it is, is almost unusable by larger, corporate airplanes. So they have to go out the center taxiway and then go back down the runway and turn around instead of being able to go parallel to it and make a more natural course.”

If approved, the funds would come in the form of a five percent match grant with the city providing approximately $65,000 of total funding.