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Work near airport part of FAA safety mandate
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“There’s not going to be a Home Depot out there.”

Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter made the statement during a brief Nov. 9 meeting in a Kershaw County Government Center conference room with Assistant County Administrator Allen Trapp, Kershaw County Airport Manager Ron Prestage and Kershaw County Airport Commission Chairman John C. West Jr.

Carpenter was talking about a rumor -- just one among many -- he and Trapp have heard in recent weeks in connection with work being done around the airport. Other rumors, including one fielded by the C-I, claimed the county is extending the runway to make room for larger jets.

As it turns out, the tree and home removal and closing of Logan Road are all part of a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety mandate concerning the safety zones extending from each end of a runway.

“This table,” Prestage said, tapping the room’s rectangular conference table, “was the shape of the safety zone for every runaway in this country. It concerns obstacles -- roads, trees, residences -- it needs to be flat. A few years ago, the FAA changed it to a trapezoid shape.”

The zone begins narrowly at the end of a runway and widens before ending 1,000 feet away. Think of it as triangle with one tip cut off where it starts at the runway.

“It touches properties it never touched before,” Prestage said.

He said the FAA mandate required the county to purchase property, arrange for existing homes to be moved or demolished, cut down trees and grade the land.

“This wasn’t required by the county or the airport commission. The FAA determined they wanted it done,” he said.

Prestage said an airport improvement plan included grant funding to be used in complying with the FAA’s order. The county banked those funds until it grew large enough to move forward, he said. There is a cost-sharing plan where the federal government pays 90 percent of the costs, the state 5 percent and the local government another 5 percent.

“It’s paid for by state and federal taxes from aeronautics fuel,” Prestage said.

And, he reiterated, the work has nothing to do with extending the runways themselves.

“We’ve never, ever had a discussion to do that,” he said. “Years ago, we extended the runway from 4,500 to 5,000 feet, which is about right for the small corporate jets we get. Besides, there’s technology available to make landing a plane safer on shorter runways.”

Trapp said crews, who have been working primarily on the end of a runway near the Applied Technology Education Campus (ATEC) and U.S. 1 should be moving soon to the other, north end of the runway near Red Fox Road.

“It should be done about 90 days from now,” Trapp said, confirming there are still some houses to be moved or demolished.

On the south end, most of Logan Road -- long used as the main entry point to ATEC from U.S. 1 -- has been permanently closed. A short portion of Logan Road leading to ATEC can now only be accessed from Red Fox Road. The county abandoned nearby Hacks Drive and Maggie Avenue earlier this year. The county began purchasing affected property near the airport in mid-2013.

“This is a good thing for the airport and for safety,” Carpenter said. “We’re trying to get the airport to be as good as it can be. There are no long-term plans to expand the airport. We’re just trying to focus on this project.