By Steve Capps
For the Star-Gazette
Beardstown may soon see some needed improvements at the city’s airport. The Committee-As-A-Whole met last week with the engineer tasked with maintenance and planning at the facility on behalf of the city and the FAA. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss two federally funded projects which have been tentatively set for this year.
Jim Hutchinson of Hutchinson Engineering told the committee that the FAA has approved the construction of a new hangar and remarking and painting the runway this year. He explained that each year the federal government puts money into an account designated specifically for airport projects. Beardstown’s airport receives about $150,000 a year. He stated, “It’s been about six years since you’ve used any of those funds. As a result you now have enough money to pay for both of these projects and they expect you to use it.”
The plan calls for demolishing the current hanger and rebuilding an eight-bay T-hangar with office space and a public restroom on the same spot. The current hangar is in poor condition due to weather damage and lack of regular use. Only three bays are in use at this time housing ultralite hobby aircraft. Hutchinson said the FAA hopes the improved facilities will cause an increase in use by standard small aircraft.
One local pilot doesn’t think the plan goes far enough. “As a pilot I’m not going to come to Beardstown because I can’t get gas. I can’t get service,” said Jack Fearneyhough. He feels the new hangar will get little more use than the old one does unless the airport has fuel onsite and a mechanic housed in one of the bays.
Hutchinson said the addition of fuel facilities is another $150,000 project and the FAA would not approve this amount at this time based on current usage. He noted that this did not preclude a private party from building a fuel facility at the airport.
“You’ve got to get it to bring in revenue,” said Fearneyhough. “Otherwise it’s like feeding a horse you don’t ride.”
The total cost of the two projects is nearly $600,000. The feds will pay for 90 percent of the cost. An insurance claim from wind damage a few years ago was deposited for this eventuality and will pay most if not all of the local share. The project must pass the vote of city council before it can proceed as they will bear responsibility for the finances upfront then get reimbursed by FAA when the project is completed.