While people attempt to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus, local industry is also looking for security from the devastating economic impact the virus has caused.
At Madisonville Regional Airport, fewer flights has equated to less revenue.
However, as the warm weather rolls in and restrictions are eased, the airport board is hopeful things will start returning to normal.
In his treasurer’s report at Monday’s regular board meeting, Mark Metcalf acknowledged activity at the airport had been down.
“That’s just part of it, it’s going to pick back up with these pretty days, and pretty weather that we’ve got. It’s warming up and sunshine,” he said. “It’s going to pick back up, and it sounds like we’ve got plenty of fuel to sale.”
Airport manager Emily Herron said the airport recently purchased 4,311 gallons of fuel and currently have about 6,800 gallons of 100 low-lead in their tanks. She said they bought the gas for $2.54 a gallon, which she believed to be the most economical cost for the fuel.
During the meeting, Madisonville city engineer Eric Hickman said the new T-hangar project had a two-week delay in April due to the pandemic. As of now, the hanger is almost completely erected.
“I spoke with the contractor today, and he felt if the weather cooperates and it’s not as windy as it is today, they’ll be able to start roofing it and hopefully have it completed by the end of the week,” he said. “As far as the electrical portion, I spoke with Duke Gaston today. He’s been the design engineer throughout the project, and he felt like we could get some prices below the $30,000 threshold, so we would not have to go out for bids. We can just get a few quotes, so that’ll shorten that time-frame up as well. It’s just some good news on the T-hangar project.”
After discussing the project, the board reviewed the Airports’ Capital Improvement Plan, which includes fixing a drainage problem and addressing issues with the runway.
Mark Upchurch, a project manager with the airport’s engineering firm Garver, said he was accumulating a list for their ACIP and is trying to prioritize their needs for next year’s work. The first was flooding control with an undersized culvert near the airport’s access road.
Upchurch asked if the city would be able to help with the cost because he didn’t believe the Federal Aviation Administration would commit to paying 90% of the price, as the FAA funds ACIPs through grants.
Upchurch said he didn’t know if the city could help, or if they needed to find another avenue to fund the project.
Madisonville City Administrator Robert Janes said because of the virus, the city is looking at a loss of revenue of almost $1 million, and their funds are very tight.
“I would like to be creative and think outside the box, but I think this is a conversation that myself, Eric and the engineering firm, Mark, need to sit down and see what options we have,” said Janes. “I’m not completely counting it out for the city to help funding it, but we’ve got to be very frugal at this point in time.”
Board member Mickey Howard said he believes the culvert project is one of the higher priorities for the airport as he said it’s not unusual to have five-inch rains.
This week, Upchurch said he would draft the ACIP for approval at the June meeting.
In other news the airport board:
• passed a motion for chairman Jimmy Riddle to sign for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which will bring $30,000 to the airport to help with payroll.
• passed a motion to upgrade their fuel management system so that visitors can pay with their chip-enabled cards. The grant funds are going to each airport in the state to upgrade the systems. The board passed the motion for the upgrade as long as it does not exceed the amount of the $19,750 grant.