Two separate projects are currently underway at the Chilton County Airport as part of the airport’s expansion project.
On Wednesday, crews worked to tear down several homes located off Lay Dam Road, which the airport purchased as part of a land acquisition grant to make full use of the airport’s runway.
The grant helped purchase six parcels along Highway 145, adjacent to the airport, providing a clearing path to extend the runway.
“It was not our intention to leave those houses that way for that long,” Chilton County Airport Authority board member Billy Singleton said on Wednesday. “We tried to be sensitive to the fact that we needed to clean up that area, and it was important to get that project done as soon as possible.”
Airport representatives fielded complaints from residents regarding the vacant homes creating an eyesore for the community as they were left vacant for eight weeks.
During the time the homes were left vacant, different agencies including the Chilton County Sheriff’s Department, Clanton Fire Department and others utilized the homes for training purposes.
“We worked as fast as we could on those,” Singleton said. “The neighbors were very patient. I can say that after tomorrow, those homes will not be an issue. That area will be landscaped and people should soon be looking at a field of grass.”
Part of the delay in the land acquisition project centered on a separate project to resurface the runway and add a lighting system providing additional lighting and upgrades to the current lighting that is more than 50 years old.
“What started as one particular project ended up evolving into something totally different,” Singleton said. “The contractor realized the existing surface would not hold up the foundation under the runway. It caused us some concerns that it might not support airplanes so we had to replace a lot of foundation which meant digging it out and coming back with more solid material.”
Singleton said replacing the foundation created an additional 30 days for the project.
“We didn’t realize how extensive the project was,” Singleton said. “It was stressful and frustrating for everyone. We are now starting to see a path through this, and we will start paving in the next two weeks.”
Singleton anticipates the resurfacing project to end the first week of August.
“It was originally scheduled for 90 days,” Singleton said. “The original date it was scheduled to end was July 7, but we ran into some significant problems. It has not been a smooth path getting here, but it is all going well now.”
In October 2013, the Chilton County Airport held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate a $2.6 million investment at the airport.
A grant for roughly $1.6 million was awarded to the airport in September 2013 from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) that would help upgrade the current lighting system at the airport.
Singleton said the lighting system will also save the airport roughly 85 percent in electrical costs due to the more modern system of turning the runway lights off when they are not in use.
With the grant, Chilton County was responsible to pay 5 percent of the grant with the FAA and ALDOT posting 95 percent of the cost for the projects.
The land acquisition of the parcels was through a separate grant for roughly $825,000.
The airport was first dedicated on July 3, 1937, making it one of the oldest continuously operating airports in Alabama.
Currently, the runway at the airport is closed while crews continue to work on the projects, but Singleton anticipates everything finishing by this fall.
“This will put us in a very good place,” Singleton said. “We are now the point where we can start looking forward. These projects are probably the most visible things we will do, but we are moving smoothly ahead.”