By Faye Gaston
The Franklin Field Airport Authority Board met four times in 2019, four times in 2020, and has already met twice in 2021.
The meetings are held at the airport and via teleconference. Meetings are open to the public. The county owns the airport. Financial statements are presented at all Board meetings.
In addition to the five Board members and the Legal Council, other attendees were Matt Thomason (Goodwin, Mills, Cawood), Addie Smith (Accountant), David Padgett (Bullock County Economic Development Authority Director), Alonza Ellis, Jr. (Bullock County Commission Chr.), Sean Gallagher, Cooper Rutland, Solomon Marlow, and Steve Minor. Board members are Thomas Main, Chairman; Cope Lawrence Vice-Chairman; Suzanne Johnson, Secretary/Treasurer; Melma Gillis and Hunter Smith.
The following are highlights from the minutes of the last ten meetings.
In 2019 the fuel pump repair and compliance were checked. A bulb was replaced @$250 and the gate opener was repaired. The clean-up of timber cutting was piled up and burned. A logging company was to remove timber around the runway. There is liability and property insurance.
The need for a rental car was expressed. (One was donated). Plans were discussed to purchase adjoining property and relocate property owners (such as a hunting cabin) and build a new fence.
The Bullock County Development Authority gave $40,000 in 2019 for operating cost of the airport.
There was an unexpected $175,000 supplemental grant made possible by U.S. Senator Richard Shelby to Franklin Field. This was "100% money" that did not require a 5% match from the county. (This was used for the extra paving around the hangars and terminal.)
In November 2019, Chairman Thomas Main reminded the Board of the goal for the airport and its growth with modern facilities and technology. "We have progressed in five years from a landing sight to now providing fuel, hangar space and courtesy services."
Jet fuel and a large hangar to house a Jet are the next needs. The fuel sales for the year was about $18,000. There were reports on the runway extension, utilities, and paving of the road. Two boxes (PAPPI lights) at $900 each were to be purchased to provide safety for pilots on their approaches.
In 2020 there were three new tenants renting hangars and a waiting list. Crop dusters use the airport. Wayne Farm executives fly in on a Jet. Insurance and a GPS for the rental car were purchased. Some of the operating costs included the doubling of grass cutting and repairs on the fuel pump and credit card machine. The fencing project would cost about $500,000.
At the August 2020 board meeting, Von Memory emphasized the need and urgency to inform the public of the airport progress. "The public perception of the airport is vital and their understanding of is as an economic value is crucial for its success and growth. If the Airport Authority wants to remain viable we must get busy and promote and sell it as a destination and not a pass through."
At the October 2020 meeting Von Memory resigned as a board member and would now be the Legal Counsel upon the retirement of Attorney Louie Rutland. Hunter Smith was introduced as a new board member. (Suzanne Johnson was re-appointed as a board member.)
Donations from utility companies could total $49,000 in 2020 (Alabama Power, Dixie Electric and Troy Cable) for improvements and repairs. FAA annual grant money for 2021 would be $150,000.
At the December 2020 Board meeting reports were presented. The Union Springs Telephone Company ran fiber optics to the airport to improve the bandwidth (WIFI) capabilities. Internet was set up. A new fuel pump was installed. The fence was damaged by a wrecked vehicle.
At the January 2021 Board meeting, Matt Thomason from Goodwyn, Mills, Cawood (GMC) reported on the fence and runway projects.
The fence was damaged by two separate vehicle wrecks. Reports were given on the Internet upgrade status, fuel sales, inventory, underground tanks, and progress of the airport website.
Matt Thomason reported on the purchase of the Penn and Calhoun property. He presented the Board with a new framed map of the improved runway.
At the March 2021 Board meeting, reports were discussed about the fencing project status (and the damage from two wrecked vehicles) , the FAA grant this year, and the purchase of adjoining property pertaining to the fence project.