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LaGrange airport could see changes

LaGRANGE — On Tuesday, the LaGrange City Council held a first reading for updates to modernize its airport zoning and received an update on the status of the LaGrange-Callaway Airport.

The LaGrange-Callaway Airport is owned jointly by the City of LaGrange and Troup County, but the county oversees its day-to-day operations. Troup County is currently in the process of conducting a $6.2 million runway expansion project, which is funded through the Federal Aviation Administration (90 percent), the Georgia Department of Transportation (5 percent) and local funding (5 percent).

Dexter Wells, division director of public services for Troup County, discussed the estimated $8.7 million economic output of the airport during the meeting, as well as how the runway expansion will benefit local businesses.

“It will increase the safety for landings and departures,” Wells said. “It will promote future growth of the airport and assist with the corporate needs of the counties and the cities. It allows aircraft to take off with more weight, allowing it to fly further distance non-stop, which will also result in higher fuel sales.”

According to Wells, the airport is frequently used for freight transfers and business purposes. He said that he has found that many people do not realize that there is an airport in Troup County.

“The thing that is kind of amazing to me before I went out there is some people don’t even know about it,” Wells said. “It is a hidden gem for both the city and the county as a whole.”

The airport has two runways. The primary runway is 5,600 feet in length and is currently being expanded by 900 feet. The construction also includes upgraded lighting for the runway.

The secondary runway features 5,000 feet of unlighted runway. The primary runway has been closed for construction for months and was projected to be complete in February. However, recent rainfall could mean that completion date will be pushed back, so the airport may continue to rely on its secondary runway for a little while longer than originally anticipated. The economic impact of this delay was not discussed in the meeting.

“We have the secondary runway for when the runway is shut down, like it is now, or when there are crosswinds,” Wells said. “You have smaller planes that have a hard time landing in a crosswind, and it makes for a safer environment. We are one of the few that have the cross runway. A lot of them just have a singular runway, so that sets us apart.”

The airport also underwent renovations in 2009, when a pilot’s lounge, conference room, kitchen and snooze room were added.

Wells highlighted some of the businesses impacted by the runway on a regular basis, including everything from Air Evac to recreational flights to local industries.

“Several corporations frequent LaGrange and Troup County via LaGrange-Callaway Airport monthly,” Wells said. “There are a number of bigger companies that fly in monthly to look at their different operations. We are also the first impression for a lot of businesses when they fly in. This is the first thing they see, so first impressions are very important to us.”

Wells said that business representatives sometimes fly to LaGrange-Callaway Airport in order to use its conference room, and the airport does not charge those flying into the airport for use of the conference room.

The Troup County Board of Commissioners will also consider amendments to the Troup County Airport Zoning Ordinance, during its work session on Thursday.

Other topics covered by the LaGrange City Council on Tuesday included:

The city council established the qualifying fee as $216 for the 2019 municipal election. The fee is 3 percent of council salary, which is $7,200 annually. Council members Mark Mitchell, LeGree McCamey and Willie Edmondson’s seats will be on the ballot in November.

The LaGrange City Council appointed Council Member Jim Arrington as mayor pro-tem. Arrington will take over for Council Member LeGree McCamey, who was the mayor pro-tem in 2018.

The city council held a first reading to amend the retirement plan for the employees of the City of LaGrange. According to City Manager Meg Kelsey, the amendment will not mean any notable changes to the plan, but it will clean up the wording of the agreement. The council will vote on the amendment on Jan. 22.

The council also made a number of board and agency appointments.

City of LaGrange Marketing, Communications Manager Katie Mercer Van Schoor announced that the LaGrange Youth Council will host a viewing of the “The Proposal” at Sweetland Amphitheatre on Feb. 14. Gate opens at 5 p.m. The movie starts at 6:30 p.m.

The LaGrange City Council will meet again on Jan. 22 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Avenue.