While both airports in the county appear to be flying high when it comes to their growth, matters are heating up on the ground.
In the case of the Apalachicola Regional Airport, owned by the county, it’s all about the advisory board.
And in the case of Carrabelle’s Thompson Field, owned by the city, it’s about getting damages to the asphalt due to Duke Energy’s operations following Hurricane Michael.
At the tail end of last week’s Feb. 5 county commission meeting, Chairman Noah Lockley noted that he’s been getting telephone calls regarding the volunteer airport advisory board, which the county disbanded several months ago and has not reconstituted.
Former county planner Alan Pierce said the airport’s master plan has a component in which citizens give input, prompting Commissioner Ricky Jones to call for that input to be gathered according to the plan’s requirement.
“Do you need a board?” asked Commissioner Smokey Parrish. “You have to have public input; it don’t say you have to recreate this board.
“This thing has been functioning fine the way it is. I don’t think we need an airport advisory board,” he said. “It’s too cumbersome. It just creates too much controversy when people come on the board with their hidden agendas.
“I’m the one that has to represent these people that live all around that airport, not the people on the island, not the people in Carrabelle,” Parrish continued, forcefully. “I know what they want and what they will put up with and what they won’t put up with as far as planes flying over their house, going around and around all night long.
“If you don’t live there, it don’t bother you. I get the complaints because I represent the people that live around it,” he said. “We’re looking for jobs at the airport, we’re doing all that. We don’t need nobody to tell us how to do that.”
Jones, who represents the county on the Apalachee Regional Planning Council, said the ARPC’s rules require public input, but that has yet to be done.
“We don’t need an advisory board, we need public input, not just four or five people giving that advice,” he said. “It can’t be just four or five.”
Commissioner Bert Boldt, who sits on the board at Carrabelle’s Thompson Field, said that one is “a very functional board (that has) provided a huge amount of improvement in that airport.
“I think there is a healthy process for the board. I have found the watch care that this advisory board has had over the airport,” he said, referring to Carrabelle’s board. “I know we saved the loss of thousands of dollars in unpaid rent.
“I think there’s pros and cons (to having a board) and I think it’s appropriate to look into it,” he said, moving to research the re-creation of one in Apalachicola, with Commissioner William Massey seconding.
The motion passed 3-2, with Jones and Parrish opposed.
“It don’t matter to me,” said Lockley, reiterating that he’s been getting plenty of calls.
“Everybody’s getting them,” said Massey.
“Well they ain’t called me,” said Parrish. “There’s an obvious reason for that too.”
In Carrabelle, a report at last week’s city commission meeting from Tim Sullivan, chair of the Carrabelle Aviation Advisory Board, indicated that hangar space had been rented for the first time to the owner of a two-engine plane.
Commissioners had copies of a 196-page evaluation by the aviation consulting firm Kimley-Horn which evaluated damage to airport pavement following the deployment of Duke Energy trucks there following the Oct. 10 Hurricane Michael.
“There is no way the airport can be brought back to brand-new condition. We expect it to be brought back to the day before the storm,” said Mayor Brenda La Paz, in delivering Sullivan’s report.
She said the Duke staging damaged the apron, and that doing patchwork repair was not advisable. “You’re going to have the same pothole segmentation but more of it,” she said.
She said a formula employed by the advisory board calculated damage to the apron, runway, taxiway and run-up to the apron.
La Paz said the damages totaled $521,700 and the city was seeking reimbursement from Recovery Logistics, which oversaw the staging.
“We’ll submit that and see what kind of response we get. Hopefully we’ll have options,” said City Attorney Dan Hartman.
“I would think Duke has a responsibility to correct whatever they damaged, within reason,” Commissioner Tony Millender said.
La Paz said Kimley Horn estimated it would take $2.73 million for a major rehab of the land.
“Even the advisory board agrees that is not within reason. It wasn’t in brand new condition when they took the site over. (But) just doing spot repairs is just a potential for potholes,” she said.
“Let’s shake the tree and see what falls out,” said Hartman.