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Airport board plans expansion in Robertson County

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Alderman and newly-appointed Vice Mayor Bruce Head (left) listens to Sam Chitty's presentation by the Springfield/Robertson County Airport Board to build a new terminal. CHERI REEVES

The Springfield/Robertson County Joint Airport Board is requesting consideration for the construction of a new $2.3 million terminal at the Springfield/Robertson County Airport. Board Chairman Sam Chitty presented the proposed plans to the Robertson County Commission and the Springfield Board of Mayor and Aldermen during their Dec. 19 and Dec. 20 meetings respectively.

The proposed terminal would span 6,000 square feet and include a lobby, pilots' lounge and flight planning room, kitchen and two business conference rooms, one with a 12 person capacity and the other with a 120 person capacity.

Chitty explained that rising airport usage and expressed interest from corporations with local manufacturing ties, including Electrolux, Kroger and Lowes, prompted the board to create a plan for expansion of the over 50-year-old airport.

"The thing about an airport is it is considered the front door to a community," Chitty said. "It's important that we make a good first impression."

Springfield/Robertson County currently receives 13,000 aircraft per year; in 2017 the airport board expects over 15,000, according to Chitty. Day-to-day operations of the airport are managed by Wingnuts Aviation LLC, a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) company that maintains the airport grounds, a single, 5,500 feet runway and hangars, along with running fuel services and aircraft transportation.

Wingnuts would also run the proposed terminal, according to Wingnuts co-owner Chris Ferraraccio, who spoke to the county commission on Monday.

"Right now, we are operating out of a corrugated metal lean-to," Ferraraccio said. "We just don't look as professional as the city and county deserve."

Funding for the new terminal would come from private, city, county and state resources.

Chitty and Ferraraccio proposed during the meeting a funding plan that would solicit $350,000 in pledges from companies in Springfield that stand to benefit from the upgrade.

Another $350,000 for the project would come from state grants, while $825,000 each would come from Robertson County and the City of Springfield in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

Chitty pointed out that operation of the current airport is self-sustaining, and that only large capital projects like the new terminal require outside funds.

"We rarely come to any commission or aldermen meeting asking for money," Chitty said.

Several comparable nearby airports have already constructed new airport terminals due to increased traffic, including Russellville in 2009, Winchester in 2008, Lebanon to be completed in February, Clarksville, the largest, in 2012 and Portland, which built a $1.3 million dollar, 4,200 square foot terminal last year.

"It's not specific to our community," explained Chitty on the growth of airport usage and infrastructure. "It's everywhere."

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