Friday, March 29, 2013

Cherokee County (KCNI), Canton, Georgia: Airport prepares for construction, rise in air traffic

Cherokee County’s lone airport is preparing for big changes and increases in air traffic, as the plan to construct seven new airplane hangars takes shape and possible plans for more additions to the property near Ball Ground are discussed.

Cherokee County Airport Authority’s vice chairman, John Marinko, said Thursday that since the airport lengthened its runway by more than 1,500 feet a year and a half ago, traffic at Cherokee County Regional Airport has increased drastically.

The added length took the airport’s runway to 5,002 feet long. Marinko said the addition of the extra two feet was to ensure the runway would stay above the length required by law if the weather attempts to change its size.

“The ground expands and shrinks,” he said, and, “If you have 5,000 feet or less, it does make a difference in allowing some jets to land legally.”

And it’s the jets that are important to Cherokee County coffers, Marinko said.

By having the ability to accommodate jets, the regional airport now has five corporate jets stationed there, paying dues and fees.

“We have ad valorum tax just like we do on boats, cars and everything else throughout the county,” he said.

“When you’re looking at a $5 million aircraft,” Marinko said, those fees add up.

County Commissioner Harry Johnston agreed with Marinko’s sentiment Thursday, saying that the ad valorum fees collected on a $2 million airplane could push the amount of taxes collected on 10 to 20 homes.

“And that’s exactly what we wanted to see out there,” the commissioner said.

Corporations with airplanes housed at CCRA also pay storage charges and a fee for every gallon of fuel bought from S and S Aviation, a North-Georgia based aviation firm which has leased space at the Cherokee airport.

These five corporate jets and three propeller planes housed at the airport, though, have them a maximum capacity, Marinko said.

But they are in the negotiation stages of solving that problem.

Marinko said 16 acres of land obtained last December in a cash-free, even land-swap with a nearby homeowner, gives them enough space for seven new hangars and a new maintenance facility. It was a “big coup,” he said to get the land without spending money for it.

As stated in S and S’s lease, they will fund the construction of the seven hangars and own them for at least the remainder of their 26-year lease. After that, the county may take over ownership. The additions will leave Cherokee with seven airplane hangers, as the two existing will be demolished, Marinko said.

Cherokee County will fund prepping the land for construction, which is soon to go out for bid. It will likely cost the county around $3.5 million, which will come from funding left over from money previously given to the county from the federal government, Marinko said.

Marinko said other additions to the CCRA may eventually come down the pipe.

Some discussion has been had on adding an aviation museum, airplane maintenance school for Chattahoochee Technical College and, one distant day, perhaps even regional commercial air traffic will frequent the airport.

“If you’re gonna dream,” Marinko said “you might as well dream big.”


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