City Council members learn ‘sky’s the limit’ where improved airport is concerned

Second in a series

Since its completion, the new airport runway at Marlatt Field has generated more traffic – and economic development possibilities, according to local EDC President Corey Murphy.

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It may be the most overlooked asset in Henry County. It also may be the most improved and, perhaps, one of the most valuable.

Monday night, members of the New Castle City Council heard a presentation from local economic development president Corey Murphy about Marlatt Field, a.k.a. the New Castle-Henry County Municipal Airport.

As he talked about the recent improvements at the airport, Murphy emphasized its success was “critical” to New Castle’s success. Indeed, he intimated “the sky’s the limit” where economic development opportunities are concerned, thanks to the airport. And any day now, the facility will be solely in the hands of the city.

“Effective Jan. 1, the airport is solely owned and sponsored by the City of New Castle,” Murphy said. “The Federal Aviation Administration has not approved the transfer of ownership yet. I’m confident they will.”

Murphy said the ownership change was mutually agreed to by city and county officials. With the county focused on building a new jail, it was thought best to let the city take over the airport, where future needs won’t take a backseat to the $24 million-plus project on Van Nuys Road.

The change in ownership puts the local airport in line with how most are operated, Murphy said.

“It may have been the only joint city-county owned airport facility in the state,” Murphy said.

Murphy told council members that the brand new runway at Marlatt Field was a bigger deal than many realized.

“Not very many new runways get built,” Murphy said.

Now that drainage issues surrounding that new airport are virtually resolved, Murphy said the focus is on expanding the apron – “where you park your airplane.” He said officials are working through appraisals for future land acquisition, not only for that expanded apron, but for future expansion of the runway to 5,000 feet.

“The apron expansion allows infrastructure to host larger planes and to continue helping us make the case for our runway to be expanded to 5,000 feet,” Murphy explained. “Most of the air traffic out there are from companies that lease their jets. If we don’t have 5,000, feet, their insurance company says ‘sorry, can’t land there.’”

The local Board of Aviation Commissioners (BoAC) is seeking $643,000, with only $32,150 of which would be required locally in match money.

Because the BoAC is now entirely a city-run board, three members are no longer eligible to serve because they don’t live in New Castle. Murphy asked the council to join him in thanking Keith Pritchett, Gene Clark and Jon McCutcheon for their efforts.

Murphy also thanked current members Don McCutcheon, Tom Green and John Melton for their willingness to continue serving.

As far as more improvements are concerned, Murphy urged the City Council members to stay tuned.

“We hope to be announcing some other improvements soon related to weather reporting,” Murphy said.

NEXT: Our three-part series concludes with Corey Murphy’s report on local tourism efforts.

– Story by Darrel Radford (DRadford@TheCourierTimes.comof The Courier-Times. Read more local stories at www.TheCourierTimes.com.

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