The Bridgeport City Council approved a participation agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Tuesday night for the construction phase of an Airport Improvement Project at Bridgeport Municipal Airport.
The project calls for remodeling the runway and parallel taxiways, installing new runway lights and moving a Chevron pipeline on the airport property.
But the year-long project may cause some headaches for pilots who use the airport and keep their planes there. The runway could be shut down for up to six months – something the council addressed in an open meeting with TxDOT, pilots and business owners Tuesday morning.
At that meeting, airport customers spoke with TxDOT representatives about possible plane storage and runway use during the closure. A significant amount of time was spent discussing how pilots might use alternative runways while the airport was shut down.
“What we’ve found is that there is a grassy area at the airport that is around 3,000 feet that planes could take off and land from,” TxDOT Aviation representative Bill Gunn said. “I would say, do it at your own risk and don’t make a habit out of it, and make sure it’s for use by the local folks only … If you keep it local with the [plane] owner’s permission, then the FAA won’t get involved.”
Gunn added that the city wouldn’t be held liable if an accident were to happen while pilots were utilizing the grassy area.
City Administrator Brandon Emmons said the city’s goal is to keep the runway open as long as possible.
“If there is need for local traffic to get in and out, we’ll make that happen,” Emmons said. “Right now, we’re looking at allowing flights for two hours pre-sunrise and two hours post-sunset. The grassy area wouldn’t be listed as a runway but would be available as an option.”
Emmons said pilots would still be able to use the hangars at the airport to store their planes.
There are other airports nearby, but hangar space is at a premium.
The construction phase on the airport project begins Oct. 6. The council will meet with pilots, TxDOT and other contractors Sept. 22 and 23 to further discuss how to proceed.
TRASH, GUNS AND ELECTRICITY
In other city council meeting news:
- The council approved an amendment to the city’s agreement with Progressive Waste Solutions to raise the amount residents pay to have their trash and recycling collected by 22 cents. The old rate of $11.88 per resident, per month, is being increased to $12.11 per month to be in line with consumer price index standards. The rate will go into effect Oct. 1.
- The Bridgeport Police Department now has new weaponry after the council approved $2,960 to purchase 17 Kimber .45 handguns from 2K Pawn and Gun – to replace old ones bought in 2004. After trading in the old guns, the money spent on the new ones will come from the court security fund, which gets $3 every time a defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor.
- An amendment to lower the electric fees in the “Electric Schedule of Rates” section of the city’s code of ordinances was adopted after AEP reduced the city’s wholesale power costs. The amendment states the new electric rate for the upcoming fiscal year would be $0.1262 per kWh, down from the current $0.1291 per kWh that was established in February. The rate reduction would save residents up to $950,000 over the next four years, Emmons said.
- An amendment to Section 9.403(b)(13) of the Code of Ordinances that clarified the city administrator’s job duties to “perform all duties as may be prescribed by the city council” passed 3-0, with Councilman Billy Fred Walker abstaining, after a 40-minute executive session. The previous version of the code had the mayor prescribing all duties.
“The way it was written, it had to be changed so that the decisions were made by the entire governing body of the council, so it was just an administration decision,” Emmons said.
- The council also met in another executive session to discuss legal issues pertaining to the airport project at the end of the meeting.
- A second public hearing on the 2014-2015 maximum tax rate of $0.5875 was held. The tax rate will go into effect Sept. 16.
The council’s next meeting is 7 p.m Sept. 16 at City Hall 900 Thompson Street and is open to the public.