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Co. Commissioner Promises Progress At County Airport




Problems that have existed at the Fulton County Airport for years, even decades, are being resolved, said Joe Short, Fulton County commissioner.

Speaking to the Archbold Area Chamber of Commerce Monday, Oct. 22, Short said he had promised to resolve three problems at the airport that had existed for five to seven, 15, and even 20 years, in 33 days.

He said a member of the airport board approached him and asked what he knew about aviation.

Short said he told the board member, “I know that Orville and Wilbur flew a plane a Kitty Hawk. I thought that was pretty funny. He didn’t,” he said.

After spending three and a half hours discussing airport issues, Short told the board member to give him 30 days and he would resolve them.

“It was his turn to laugh,” he said.

But Short said before the 30 days were up, he had two of the three issues resolved, and the third in 33 days.

“The guy was on vacation, and I couldn’t get to him to sign the papers,” he said.

Trees

One long-term problem at the airport is a grove of trees to the south of the main east-west runway.

Wind passing through the trees becomes turbulent, causing problems to pilots trying to land. Short said the trees were implicated in a fatal May 11, 2003 crash at the airport.

The difficulty has been that the trees are on private property. The county has negotiated with the landowners off and on for years.

Short said as of Oct. 22, all the contracts have been signed to remove the trees.

He said the landowners have agreed to work with the Fulton County Soil and Water Conservation District to remove the trees. The county will be responsible for removing the stumps.

Short said he will work on a second wooded area, south and east of the first, in 2008.

Another issue has been with a business building on the north side of the airport. The access road to the building is on county land- an arrangement that is strictly forbidden by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Short said in the past, the company had been ordered to do something about the road. He took a different approach, asking what the company needed to resolve the problem.

As a result, Short said the county will contribute $50,000 to the company for the construction of a new road. He said the county will not build the road, but will assist in its construction, by way of the $50,000 payment.

In return, the company will allow the county to place warning lights on the top of the building, part of the FAA’s requirements.

Plane Management”

Another issue that faced the airport was “plane” management. Short explained the issue has nothing to do with the airplanes.

Instead, the FAA requires that there be nothing within a space around the airport from the runway skyward in all directions.

The space is like an inverted pyramid, extending one foot up for every 12 feet laterally.

Roof-top air conditioner and heating ducts on the top of the building north of the airport had to be replaced with lowerprofile units.

There is a field near the airport. When corn is planted there, the plants are in the FAA’s 12- to-1 slope.

Short said the way has been cleared for the county to purchase the property.

FBO

The airport has had problems keeping a fixed-based operator in place. A fixed-base operator, also known as an FBO, provides services such as fuel sales, flight training, aircraft rental, repair, and maintenance, etc.

“The biggest problem, many of the people out there have done a nice job, but they have not had the financial resources to actively market what the airport can do,” Short said.

He is now in negotiation with Quick Flight, an FBO firm at Toledo Express airport. Quick Flight provides FBO services in over 20 cities.

Short said National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) drivers headed for Michigan International Speedway could land at Fulton County.

He said Quick Flight could offer flights to and from Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Mackinac Island, “when you want to go. And after all, isn’t that what an airport is supposed to do?”

Unfinished Business”

Short said he dislikes unfinished business, and if there is anyplace in the county with unfinished business, it is the Fulton County Airport.

He said in the past, none of the Fulton County Commissioners had much to do with the airport because there was an airport board overseeing it.

“There was no go-to person.”

He said Vond Hall, Fulton County administrator, asked the commissioners if someone would become the go-to person.

Short said when Hall made his request, Hall noticed Short was the only commissioner in the room.

But Short agreed to take on the responsibility and give it his best.- David Pugh


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