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Approval likely this summer for $600,000, 10-unit airplane hangar for Cox Field Airport

Planning is about 85 percent complete for construction of a $600,000, 10-unit airplane hangar at Cox Field Airport, an aviation planner for the Texas Department of Transportation said Tuesday.

Aviation planner Matthew Felton
Aviation planner Matthew Felton

Matthew Felton told a marketing and development subcommittee of the city’s Airport and Advisory Board that the proposal likely will be taken this summer before the five-man Texas Transportation Commission, which governs the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

“Once that vote in Austin comes, our project is actually on the board to be done,” said Shawn Napier, director of city development and engineering, who is also airport director.

Felton said TxDOT’s top priorities in approving a project are safety, maintenance, capacity and environment. The last of those concerns was cleared two weeks ago, he said.

Under a federal grant, the federal government would pay 90 percent of the costs and the City of Paris 10 percent.

“That’s a pretty good buy,” said Jack Ashmore, chairman of the Airport Advisory Board.

“That’s going to be a big step toward improvement of the airport. We have had a waiting list for hangars forever,” Ashmore said.

Napier said he anticipates TxDOT will take the project before the five-man Texas Transportation Commission this summer for approval.

“Once that vote comes, our project is on the board to be done,” Napier said.

“Hopefully, we will be hiring an engineer later this year, complete the design this winter, and hopefully start construction next summer,” Napier said. “How that plays out, we’ll see, but that’s the earliest I see it happening.”

“The grant is for $600,000 (under a grant that will pay $150,000 a year for four years), so our costs would be $60,000,” Napier said. “I think we can actually break it into two different budget years, which will help, considering where we are right now as to financial restraints,” Napier said.

“What you do the first year is pay for engineering. Our part for design and consulting will probably be $10,000 or less. The rest would come the next year when we get ready to put up our part for actually building the hangar.”

As Felton said, the planning process is about 85 percent complete, with the final environmental concerns being cleared two weeks ago.

“At the end of that planning process, we will hire a consulting engineer and start that work, and that starts the ball actually rolling for construction dollars,” Napier said.

Proposed is a 10-unit T-hangar “that is almost like a bird’s nest,” Napier said. The hangar will house five planes on each side, with dual side entry.

“If you go out there now, you can see one (a 10-unit nested T-hangar) out there, at the far west end. We’ll build something similar to that,” Napier said.

Felton came up to attend the TxDOT Aviation Conference in Dallas from Wednesday through Friday “so he came up a day early to meet with us,” Napier said. Napier, airport manager Jerry Richie and PEDC member Stephen Grubbs, who is on the subcommittee, may also attend that conference.

In addition to answering questions about the city’s proposed hangar construction, Felton made observations about the city’s plans to market Cox Field Airport for economic development.

“At Cox Field, you’re lucky to be land and pavement rich,” Felton said of a significant edge the airport holds over neighboring cities it is competing against.

“You’re not lacking for any pavement to bring your aircraft in, and you’re not lacking for any land. But that also presents a challenge for you in maintaining a lot of pavement.”

Felton didn’t have many suggestions about the city’s hopes to market the airport. TxDOT deals more with the funding aspects of airport development, he said.

About the subcommittee’s interest in putting promotional material on a table at this week’s aviation conference, Felton wasn’t too encouraging.

“I don’t want to sound too negative, but most people walk by those and don’t really notice them,” he said.

“The most marketing I see at these conferences are people trying to market their services to airports. It’s not the other way around,” he said.

He did encourage the subcommittee in its efforts to put together a pamphlet with the advantages that Cox Field has over other airports.

“And I would encourage you to be very open in getting everyone in the public knowledgeable about what you have out there at the airport,” Felton said.

“A lot of people are thinking:

‘That’s my tax money going toward that, and I will never use it. I’m never flying out of that airport. It’s just a tool for the rich to be able to fly their airplanes.’

“It behooves you to educate your residents to understand the asset they have there. Reach out to your civic clubs, hold events out there, whether it’s a cancer walk or whatever, just to get people out there and realize they have an airport,” Felton said.

“That your airport does not lack in space and property is a great thing. It can be a pain sometime when you have to maintain it, but you’re not lacking for anybody who would like to come in and needs space, or needs a hangar, and wants to start up a business,” he said.

Ashcroft said that’s exactly what the newly created Airport Advisory Board subcommittee is trying to do.

“We are working at coming up with the pluses and minuses. We are trying to get something we can sell to the world — another Campbell Soup, another Kimberly Clark,” Ashcroft said.

Felton said fly-ins are good for making the public aware of an airport’s value.

“We run out of parking space every fly-in we have, but we ran out of sponsors. People think you can do these things free, but fly-ins cost money,” Ashcroft said.

“Last year was the first year in 15 years we didn’t have a fly-in,” he said.

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra