Airport expansion work begins Project expected to take 18 months

September 17, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Clouds hung low and a chilly breeze blew, but nothing could cool the enthusiasm of county officials and residents yesterday as they celebrated the expansion of the Carroll County Regional Airport.

"We were worried about the warm, dry weather," said Commissioner Julia W. Gouge during the groundbreaking ceremony, which featured airplane tours over the site.

In a change from the tradition of breaking ground with dirt-filled shovels, county officials and other dignitaries donned hard hats and swung red flags as they directed a bulldozer driver cutting the first swath of earth.

"We're just going to lift these red flags and it's going to be done, like magic," joked U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, who was instrumental in getting federal funding for the project, first conceived in the county's 1984 master plan.

"This project is an excellent example of what can be accomplished between federal, state and local governments and the private sector," he said. "People have to work together. This type of project doesn't simply happen."

Work on the $11 million project, 90 percent of which is paid by federal money, begins this week and should be completed in 18 months. County and state agencies are each paying 5 percent of the remaining cost. The first phase of the project involves relocating Meadow Branch Road around and behind the airport so that it connects with Route 97 next to Feeser's Fruit Market. County officials expect the new road to be completed by Christmas.

"We're going to build the new road, open the new road and then close the old road," said county General Services Director J. Michael Evans. "It will be easier to move grading equipment [for the new runway] without having to direct traffic."

The new 5,100-foot runway will stretch across the current Meadow Branch Road into county maintenance building property. Carroll County's airport will then be able to accommodate corporate jets carrying up to 19 passengers, Mr. Evans said.

"Our forecast of growth is, by the year 2003, we will have seven based jet aircraft," he said. "That's good for us because we sell parking spaces."

Yesterday's ceremony was filled with appreciation for those who have supported the project.

"We are blessed with a guardian angel," said Mr. Evans during his presentation. "Jack Poage keeps an eye on us and helps us with our project at the very highest level."

The former president of Westair Inc., Mr. Poage guided the facility's growth from 1979 until September 1990, when he died while performing a stunt during an air show.

His wife, June, continues to work at the Carroll County Regional Airport.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy compared the excitement of the expansion to the thrills Charles Lindbergh felt in flight.

"We're experiencing another kind of exhilaration as we open new opportunities for Carroll County," he said. "Now, we have to grab a little of Mr. Lindbergh's defiance of tradition as we lift off and navigate toward our destination."

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