Demopolis airport to get overhaul, safety upgrades

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 21, 2003

On an average week, Mark Harrell flies out of the Demopolis municipal airport three times. Sometimes, it’s for a personal trip; other times, it’s for Southern Tank Leasing, a local truck leasing company.

Thanks to a grant from the Alabama Department of Transportation, Harrell won’t have to worry about having a safe airport at which to land.

Steve Harris, an engineer for Huntsville-based Garver Engineers, said the grant money to be used at the Demopolis airport will allow the city to purchase land on both ends of the runway. Apparently, the FAA believes trees bordering the runway could cause a safety risk in the coming years, and the land purchase would allow those trees to be cut.

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In all, the grant money amounts to $265,000, and along with capital projects, the land purchase and repaving part of the runway, that money will pay for administrative and engineering needs.

Harrell, who said he’s glad improvements will be made to the airport, said Demopolis citizens have no idea what a treasure they have on U.S. Highway 80 West.

More than a month ago, Gov. Bob Riley and Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove announced a joint venture to purchase an enormous tract of land that would be used to build an industrial park. Though nothing has been made official, some believe Kia Motors is looking at this region of the nation to build a new car manufacturing plant, and the site less than 40 miles from Demopolis could top the list of potential sites.

For that matter, Harrell believes the city of Demopolis needs to take seriously the importance of a safe airport.

On any given week, the Demopolis airport gets a lot more use than some might think.

Harrell, who said he may use the airport as much as anyone, doesn’t go a day without seeing business executives coming into town for industries like Gulf States, Foster Farms or Citadel.

The work scheduled to be done later this summer will not affect air transportation in the area. In fact, Harrell said the Demopolis airport is in fine shape right now.

On May 6, members of the ALDOT Aeronautics Bureau inspected the Demopolis airport and said trees obstructing the runway already violate an administrative code.

According to ALDOT, the city has 360 days to fix the problem, and Harris doesn’t believe that timeframe will cause any problems.