Construction began recently at the facility west of Dallas after the Paulding County Airport Authority unanimously approved issuing $3.4 million in bonds to pay for the widening last week.
The authority voted for the expansion in a special called meeting. The Paulding County Board of Commissioners then voted 3-1, with Post 2 Commissioner Todd Pownall voting no, to approve the 10-year bond issue.
However, two Paulding residents, Susan Wilkins and Anthony Avery, opposing a plan for commercial passenger service at the airport then took legal action Monday to stop the bond issue when they filed motions to intervene in the required Superior Court approval of the issue. The county was required to answer the motions by today, after which a hearing could be scheduled.
Last week, Airport Authority member Kerry Tidmore said he voted for the bond issue because it was needed to enhance an underutilized county property.
“We believe it will be an asset,” he said. “We wouldn’t have done [the bond issue] if it wasn’t.”
“It’s a key economic generator. The potential is there for good, high-paying jobs,” Tidmore said.
Aircraft of all types now must use the runway as both taxiway and runway, and the 50-foot widening will allow planes to prepare for takeoff while another aircraft is on the runway, Tidmore said.
“It’s going to be safer for any operator,” he said.
The taxiway construction follows work on a new runway safety overrun area, which began in August with funding from a Federal Aviation Administration grant.
Meanwhile, new tenant Silver Comet Terminal Partners has begun work to renovate the terminal to make it suitable for commercial passenger service, including adding areas for ticket counters, security screening, gates and baggage claim.
Pownall has said he was opposed because other commissioners and authority members did not tell him and the public about Silver Comet’s plans after a lease was signed with the company in November 2012.
Wilkins, Avery and other Paulding residents also said they should have been better informed before the early October announcement about the company’s plans for passenger service and recruitment of aerospace-related companies to the airport area.
Residents have complained about the potential for jet noise, increased air pollution and a diminished quality of life from a commercial airport. They also have said there was not enough infrastructure to support expected traffic increases for commercial flights and new industries.
One resident asked county commissioners last week to stop the project until residents were better informed because taxpayers ultimately would be responsible for the money if the bonds were not repaid.
However, Swafford said the county will ask the FAA to reimburse the cost of the taxiway.
In addition, Silver Comet agreed to put up money to repay the bonds until FAA funding comes in, Swafford said. The company will put $500,000 into an escrow account to be used to repay the bond.
Then, it will continue making repayments if the FAA money does not come in before the account is empty, he said. He added the airport might handle two flights a day at its peak. No nighttime flights are planned, he said.
Tidmore said the authority was “very aware of what it [the changes] means to all residents.”
“It’s our responsibility to keep in mind what impacts there will be,” he said.