GREENVILLE — Interested citizens gathered Monday night to hear the results of environmental studies conducted for proposed improvements at the Darke County Airport.
The public meeting, hosted at the Darke County Commissioners’ building in Greenville, featured Stantec Project Manager Jeffrey Kramer and Airport Engineer Brian Crosier. Stantec is contracted by the county to perform consulting and engineering services.
The county is seeking to reclaim 291 feet of runway space at the airport to allow longer takeoff and landing capabilities. A portion of old State Route 242 at the west end of the runway currently restricts the amount of existing runway which can be used. The county’s plan is to permanently close off this section of 242, increasing the runway safety area, or the space beyond the end of the runway, to allow full use of the runway.
The current usable runway length is 4,221 feet. Utilizing the extra 291 feet would allow planes taking off to transport heavier loads and store more fuel, particularly during times of the year with higher temperatures where heat and humidity are factors.
In addition to the closure of 242, the proposal calls for resurfacing and remarking of the runway pavement, the construction of a new turnaround for planes, the installation of new LED lights, regrading of surface area in the runway safety area, and clearing obstacles in that area, such as trees.
The project is expected to cost $3.8 million in its entirety, with the bulk of the cost being funded through a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grant. The county’s share is estimated at $100,000.
The plan has met with some criticism among locals, who claim the improvements are too costly and are being done at the behest of a small number of local corporations who utilize the airport. Further, a second project, the county’s plan to widen and repave Chase Road directly south of the airport, has received similar scrutiny. The Darke County Commissioners contend work at the airport and Chase Road will economically benefit the county and will bring the airport into greater compliance with FAA standards.
Stantec’s environmental studies examined a wide range of potential concerns, including the project’s potential impact on waterways, wetlands and farm land; endangered or threatened animal species; transportation patterns; historical or archaeological considerations; and noise and light issues for surrounding residences.
Kramer said that as it stands, he believes the studies did not reveal any major issues that would prevent the project from proceeding as planned. However, the proposal still needs to gain final approval from the FAA.
“[The FAA] makes the determination,” he said. “This does not come from the county, this does not come from us, it doesn’t come from the state. The FAA is the lead agency on all projects involving federal funding at airports, so it’s their responsibility to review the environmental information and to make a determination.”
The public can submit questions and comments regarding the project to Stantec until 4 p.m. on April 25. Citizens may email Kramer at [email protected] or contact the firm by mail: Stantec Consulting Services, Inc., Attn: Jeffrey Kramer, 1500 Lake Shore Drive, Columbus, OH 43204.