Runway project takes offCity council unanimously approved continuing airport work
After much discussion and many answers given to many questions Wednesday evening, the Washington City Council voted unanimously to continue a project to relocate one of the runways at the Washington Municipal Airport and that the project should appear on the next fiscal year’s budget.
The project to replace runway 13/31 with a runway farther away from Airport Road, which has been 10 years in the works, is expected to begin sometime this summer. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will pay for 90 percent of the $3.7 million project. Councilman Bob Shellmyer had raised several questions about the project, which were answered at the meeting.
“With so many other things that have to be done, I didn’t feel that the taxpayers could afford it,” he said, describing an early discussion he had with Mayor Sandra Johnson about the project. “Let me clarify, we have a wonderful airport, and it is well-managed. I never once said I was against the project.”
Shellmyer said that when he had come onto the council, he was told that the FAA had required the runway be moved. He said that he had checked and the FAA had not mandated the runway be moved. Shellmyer also raised the concern that the runway was being moved 250 yards closer to a care center, the hospital, a retirement community and the new high school. He said that he hadn’t made up his mind about the project and hoped the people in the audience who came to comment on the airport could answer his questions.
The runway is being moved to be farther away from Airport Road. During discussion, airport manager Mike Maxted said that he had received several reports from people driving along Airport Road, saying the planes were coming in too low and had “buzzed” them. He also discussed the manner in which pilots took off using the runway.
Mayor Sandra Johnson said that she had never thought that the FAA had mandated the project. She said that she believed the project went along with the plan for airport improvement.
Airport commission chair Mike Roe said that the southeast side of the runway is “crumbling.” He said the FAA had said the airport had to move the runway if federal funding would be used. He also said that leaving the runway where it is could cause liability for the city.
“To me, that is mandating,” Roe said.
In addition to moving the runway, the project will also widen it to meet FAA standards and upgrade the surface. Engineer Carl Byers, a former Air Force pilot and project leader for the runway project, said that several core tests of the runway had been done. He said that there had been chunks that had come out of the runway about the size of a fist that had been sealed. He said the main problem is that the footings of the runways are falling apart. Shellmyer said that he hadn’t been sure previously if core testing had been done.
Byers also said the runway is almost 50 years old, which is older than recommended for airports. Most city streets are replaced after about 30 years.
City administrator Brent Hinson clarified after the motion to approve the project was made that the decision would allow the city to proceed. He said the project was moving forward from here. Johnson said that if the council had voted not to continue the project, grant money that had already been received by the city for the project would have to be refunded.