April 9, 2010


FAA to decide fate of houses near airport

County highway official to meet with aviation authority to determine when homes will be razed

Staff Reporter

Cortland County Deputy Highway Superintendent Bob Buerkle will meet with Federal Aviation Administration officials in upcoming weeks to plan how to proceed with removing houses the county bought near the county airport and also to discuss airport construction projects.
The Highway Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved Buerkle’s travel request to Garden City, Long Island, to meet with the FAA officials and the county’s Binghamton-based consultant McFarland Johnson Inc.
Buerkle said the meeting takes place every couple of years.
“We try to plan ... so I and the county and the consultant have a clear vision of what the FAA would like to see happen over the next five years and what they will be willing to fund,” Buerkle said.
Buerkle said FAA officials could decide to remove by the end of the year the four houses that were deemed to be in the way of the airport’s protected runway zone.
These properties lie on either end of the runway. The county purchased those properties in 2009 after negotiations with the property owners during phase one of the airport’s obstruction mitigation project.
The airport’s obstruction mitigation project was set into motion when the airport’s master plan was updated in 2006. When the plan passed, the airport was not in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration guidelines governing runway obstructions, starting the process that is currently under way to remove obstructions.
The FAA is funding 95 percent of the project costs with state and local funds sharing the rest.
Phase two of the project, which entails purchasing land or easements on eight affected properties, is not yet completed. No houses are affected in phase two.
Since property purchases are not yet finalized for the second phase, Buerkle said the FAA will not yet plan how to remove the obstructions on these eight parcels.
Buerkle said he does not know how the FAA will decide to remove the four houses that have been bought, whether by demolishing them or selling them so they can be relocated.
Buerkle said the FAA could propose to put the houses out to bid so they can be bought, but it depends on what the agency is willing to fund.
“I am assuming they ... will move to fund the obstruction removal for phase one in the second part of this year. And whether that entails moving them or bidding them out to have them moved or demolished, we have to find out,” Buerkle said.
Buerkle said the meeting will also iron out the specifics of when and how the removals would be carried out.
“We are going to be doing project planning, planning obstruction removal. Basically if they want to remove obstructions in a single stage with one project or split it up into different phases,” Buerkle said.
The FAA likely would not announce what projects are awarded until August, after deciding which projects will be funded this year.
Buerkle said the FAA could agree to remove the houses by the end of 2010, since these houses are the ones that pose the greatest safety risk.
The houses were identified because the project intends to remove all structures and trees that lie in protected zones around the runway that should be kept clear for the safe landing and takeoff of airplanes.
The project will bring the airport into compliance with Federal Aviation Administration guidelines.
Buerkle said the meeting will also discuss the FAA’s priorities at the airport for the next four to five years. For example, the FAA could decide to fund improved equipment to help aircraft take off and land at the runway.
“We would be eligible to get funding for ... more precise instrument approach procedures,” Buerkle said, adding that the equipment would enhance safety for pilots and people who live near the airport.
Buerkle is waiting to hear from the FAA to set the meeting date. He will report on the meeting at either the May 12 or June 9 Highway Committee meeting.


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