More federal funds are available to the City of Smithville for airport improvement projects.
During Monday night’s meeting, Airport Manager Joe Johnson informed the mayor and aldermen that he has requested and received approval for an additional $150,000 in funding through the federal airport improvement grant management program.
“We had $397,428 in ACIP money under the airport improvement program but I requested and they sent us $150,000 more which puts us at $547, 428 in available funds. What that means is when we apply for a grant and get approved, 50% of that grant will be paid out of this fund ($547,428) and the state (Tennessee Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division) will provide a 45% match. The city’s grant match (local funds) is 5%,” said Johnson.
Plans are to apply for grants to build a parallel taxiway and another set of t-hangars at the airport.
“Right now airplanes have to taxi down the runway and then turn and take off. When they land they have to taxi back. That’s dangerous. It’s like walking in the middle of the road. With a parallel taxiway, planes can land and get off the runway so another airplane can land,” Johnson explained.
The city currently has sixteen T-hangars and two corporate hangars at the airport and all are occupied. According to Johnson, there is a need for more.
“We have 14-16 applications from aircraft owners wanting to rent a t-hangar from us. We would like to build a new set of t-hangars, eight for small planes and one more corporate hangar for a larger plane. That would give us nine more hangars and a total of 27 in all,” he said.
Johnson said when the time comes to start the project, he would recommend building the taxiway first because it would save money.
“Those hangars would cost about a million dollars but we could save about $200,000 by doing the taxiway first because we could take the dirt from where the hangars will go to build the taxiway. We wouldn’t have to pay for the site work. It’s a win-win situation,” Johnson explained.
The hangars are a good source of income for the airport having generated around $29,000 last year. Tenants of the T-hangars pay the city $115 per month and the monthly rent for the corporate hangars is $225.
In July the aldermen approved a request by Johnson to allow hangar tenants the option of paying their entire years rent in one lump sum at the current rate or continue to pay monthly, but at a higher rate of $125 per month. Those who have corporate hangars can also pay up front for the year at the current rate of $225 per month or at the higher rate of $250 if they choose to continue to pay by the month. Johnson said by paying up front for an entire year, the tenants get a price break while the city has more cash on hand to use for immediate airport needs.
Fuel sales are also up at the airport. In early 2016, the city completed the installation of a new fuel farm at the airport which provides jet fuel, something Smithville never offered before.
“Sales last month were more than $12,000, up from $4,000 a year ago. Our fuel sales this month are $10,000, up from $3,000 a year ago. We are making some money on fuel. I really watch those prices when they go up and down and try to catch it low and buy the fuel where we can attract airplanes. The more airplanes we get in here the more money we get, the more state money we get, and the more fuel sales we get. It’s good for everybody. As of today within 100 miles of Smithville we are one penny cheaper than anybody else (selling aviation fuel). That attracts airplanes. We get them (aircraft operators) in here all day long. They buy lunch and fuel. They spend money in Smithville. They go to the lake and I try my best to take them to a restaurant to eat when I’m there. We try to take care of the pilots,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the airport is in good condition today and when any maintenance or repairs are needed, he handles it himself when he can to save the city money. Johnson also plans to seek more federal funding for future projects. “I’m hoping to get another $150,000 in federal money to help fund the t-hangars. With extra t-hangar rent and increased fuel sales, the airport, after meeting its expenses, might one day be self sustaining,” added Johnson.
In other business, Mayor Jimmy Poss informed the aldermen that while no firm date has been set, the new animal shelter may be ready to open by late October or early November. The coalition board will soon recommend to the city someone to be hired as a part time assistant to the director Megan Moore.
Mayor Poss said members of the coalition board have also inquired about the city imposing fines on persons who drop off stray animals at the shelter after hours. “At the old dog pound, people bring in dogs and drop them after hours. Sometimes they just throw them over into the pen,” said Mayor Poss.
To help prevent that from happening at the new shelter, the aldermen may establish an ordinance with penalties for violators. Mayor Poss said the new shelter is expected to have surveillance cameras to monitor activity there.