By: Scott Broden
MURFREESBORO — The City Council will decide the fate of the proposed airport runway extension Thursday following a third public hearing on the issue.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers on the first floor of City Hall, 111 W. Vine St.
The Murfreesboro Airport Commission recommends its runway be extended by 1,102 feet for a new total of 5,000 feet to improve safety for pilots and passengers.
“This helps meet the current and future needs of the turbo prop and turbo jet aircraft that fly into the airport,” Murfreesboro Airport Manager Chad Gehrke said.
While pilots and MTSU aviation instructors favor the plan, many neighbors who live near the airport oppose a longer runway and fear it will lead to more aircraft noise and a loss of enjoying their homes and property values.
“We do oppose the airport for those reasons,” Bradford Place resident Steve Murphy said. “We have several concerns.”
Murphy said he’s leery that airport officials and their consultants have developed a plan and proposal that promotes the aviation industry and doesn’t consider the true impact to the surrounding neighbors.
“We feel we have been dismissed,” Murphy said. “Many of the statements that have been made have been incorrect or misleading.”
The Murfreesboro Planning Commission held public hearings Feb. 1 and Aug. 1. The second one had to be held when city officials learned that they didn’t provide enough time for a public notice about a public hearing dealing with a master plan.
Following the last public hearing, the planning commissioners voted 5-1 to approve the master plan. The council, which controls the purse strings of the Murfreesboro Municipal Airport, must also approve the plans that call for spending $2.6 million to extend the runway by late July 2013.
Planning Commissioner Toby Gilley, who is also a member of the seven-member city council, was the lone vote against the runway extension.
“I understand the need for the runway to be longer due to safety concerns and because of that I wish there was some compromise that could be made,” Gilley said. “I think the neighbors would agree to a compromise of something less than 5,000 linear feet, but if our only option is to go the full 5,000 feet, then my vote will stay the same as it did at the planning commission level out of respect for the neighbors who live around the airport.”
The airport plans to use Federal Aviation Administration funding through the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division to pay for 95 percent of the runway project and cover the balance from aircraft fuel sales and hangar leases, Gehrke said.
Airport officials also plan to complete a pavement overlay of the existing runway and ramp for about $2 million in conjunction with the extension project. Federal funding would cover 90 percent of the overlay project while airport revenues would pick up the rest.