DESTIN — After almost a decade of planning, the construction of an air traffic control tower at Destin Executive Airport is back on track.
Okaloosa County Commissioners voted 4-1 to move forward with building the roughly $5 million tower, which will be primarily funded by the Federal Aviation Administration and the state Department of Transportation.
The board also approved spending $466,339 to secure final wetlands permits and perform final design and bidding for the project.
County Commissioner Trey Goodwin voted against building the tower.
“I’ve done a lot of research, a lot of talking to folks who do business out at the airport … and I’m not convinced a control tower at Destin is really the best direction for us,” he said.
County Airports Director Sunil Harman told commissioners the FAA has deemed an air traffic control tower vital to airspace safety in Destin.
The airspace is unique because it includes general aviation aircraft, military aircraft and recreation and tourist aircraft.
“We’re very cautious about how we operate that airfield, but it’s unmanned,” Harman said. “There’s no traffic cop at the airport.”
Harman said winning federal approval and federal funding for the project “is a huge boon to the community.”
Commissioner Kelly Windes agreed. “
Quite simply, we’ve come way too long, way too far to change course now,” he said.
Construction bids for the tower will be finalized in the coming months, and the project is expected to take 12 months to complete.