Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Airport control tower wins county approval

BROOKSVILLE — Dogged by controversy from its inception, a control tower for the Hernando County Airport won approval from the County Commission this week, coming in with a $2.25 million price tag.

Even as the commissioners were discussing approval of the contract for the construction manager at risk, Peter R. Brown Construction Inc., critics of the proposal on Tuesday continued to argue that the county could not prove a need for the pricey structure.

Proponents countered that the county had already proved the need to the Federal Aviation Administration. They added that the tower would make the airport even safer and more attractive to businesses the county is trying to lure to Hernando County.

David Lemon, long-time pilot and a former member of the Aviation Authority, continued his effort to kill the project by urging commissioners to allow him a say in where money he has paid into the airport over the years is spent.

The project is largely funded through the aviation arm of the Florida Department of Transportation, which pays 80 percent of the cost. Airport reserves, money collected by the airport, will make up the difference, airport manager Don Silvernell told commissioners Tuesday.

Under the current plan, the FAA will pay for the staffing of the tower, a cost of about $450,000 annually, after it is built. The county will be responsible for maintenance and utilities, which will run about $15,000 per year, Silvernell said.

But Commission Chairman Jim Adkins, who has also been opposed, was still concerned that the county might get stuck funding operation of the tower in the future.

While Silvernell detailed the airport budget to demonstrate the impact of the tower expense, Adkins said he worried that the FAA funding might dry up at some point leaving the county to foot the entire bill. He was the sole no vote on the tower contract approval.

Ninety pilots who use the airport signed petitions opposing the tower, Lemon argued. No daily log reflecting the number of flights in and out of the airport has ever been taken, he said. Lemon also said that a tower is not an insurance requirement, and that the airport is safe now as evidenced by the fact that no accident has ever occurred there.

Another long-time pilot, Karl Bambas of Timber Pines, said that the county has always argued that if the tower were built, more businesses would come. But he said that "Field of Dreams" philosophy doesn't work. In fact, "pilots seek out airports without towers,'' he said.

A tower means that someone controls where planes can move and when. Bambas said towers inhibited efficiency and increase cost to pilots. The county should only build a control tower, he said, "after a groundswell of support from the local aviation community.''

Building the tower is just taking the next step toward improving the airport and the project has been fully studied and supported by the FAA, said Aviation Authority Chairman Gary Schraut. "I think it's the next step in the future of our airport,'' he said.

"Certainly, this is a proactive step,'' said Michael McHugh, the county's business development manager.

He called untrue statements by critics that a tower won't positively influence some businesses when they decide where to open or expand. Even now, Hernando is one of three potential sites for an aircraft manufacturing facility. If the county dropped plans for the tower, it would fall out of contention for the project, McHugh said.

The tower also had the strong support of Hernando Progress Inc. In a letter to the board, the group's president Mickey Smith urges approval, noting that no general funds would be spent on the construction.

"In 1984 and 1988 and again in the early 1990s money was expended by the county to make improvements to the airport,'' Smith wrote. "Those investments have provided a source of tax revenue to the county and over 2,000 jobs.''

Smith also noted that aviation-related jobs are among the highest paying jobs and new jobs are needed badly in the community.

Commissioner John Druzbick said there have been several cases when not having a control tower has influenced business decisions. "Any safety factor we can have, any way we can attract business is a step forward,'' Druzbick said.

Commissioner Wayne Dukes, who has voted no for other aspects of the tower project, said Tuesday that he has always been concerned with the argument that simply building the structure would lure more business development.

But he noted that he has done more research now and "that made the picture clearer to me and I will support it,'' Dukes said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or ((352) 848-1434.

Airport control tower wins county approval 04/13/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 7:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Arcade Fire open hearts, play with passion at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa

    Blogs

    Gloves off, hearts open and disco balls glittering, Arcade Fire scaled the stage for the first time ever in Tampa, pouncing and flailing and performing with all the passion that’s made them one of the world’s most celebrated rock bands this century.

    Arcade Fire performed at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa on Sept. 22, 2017.
  2. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The wait felt like forever for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, having gone 10 months without playing in a game.

    A scramble in front of the Lightning goal has Matthew Peca, far left, and Erik Cernak, middle, helping out goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period of a 3-1 win against the Predators. Vasilevskiy, who made 29 saves, was “exceptional,” coach Jon Cooper says.
  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb may have pitched last game in Rays uniform (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — RHP Alex Cobb pitched well enough to lead the Rays to an 8-3 win over the Orioles on Friday.

    Wilson Ramos gives thanks after hitting a grand slam during the second inning, putting the Rays up 4-0.
  4. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs this season while improving his defense and baserunning but wants to improve on his .236 batting average.
  5. Fennelly: Lightning's Manon Rheaume made history 25 years ago Saturday

    Lightning Strikes

    The name is part of Lightning history, hockey history, sports history.

    Lightning goalie Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game 25 years ago today.