Louisville celebrates airport expansion
• Corporate jets now have a place to land
By Ben Nelms
Nearly six years had come and gone. But on June 17 government and business leaders from Louisville, Jefferson County and beyond celebrated the dedication of the newly expanded 5,000-foot runway at Louisville Municipal Airport.
Mayor Byron Burt opened the ceremony by acknowledging the lengthy process that led to the expansion, the many people involved in it and the airport's relevance to the community's future growth.
"It's been a long time in the process of expanding the runway but now it's here. This is a part of the puzzle we have to put together for economic development," said Burt. "We've already had some activity that we wouldn't have had here before and I expect to see more activity in the future."
What was formerly a 3,500-foot runway was increased to 5,000 feet while the runway width was increased from 75 feet to 100 feet. Ground on either side of the runway was cleared, leveled and cut grass will be maintained for a distance of 500 feet from the centerline. Also included in the project was a new lighting system and site preparation work for a future terminal and parallel taxiway.
Funding for the $2.2 million project included nearly $1.3 million from Georgia Department of Transportation, $450,000 in federal dollars and nearly $500,000 from the city.
The expansion paved the way for small business and private jet aircraft to take off and land in Louisville. Georgia Department of Transportation Aviation Manager Ed Ratigan told a group of local pilots and residents in an Aug. 30, 2001 transportation forum that the percentage of corporate jets able to access the airport at project completion will increase to 85-90 percent.
Along with Ratigan at the June 17 dedication was Robert & Company engineer Nader Bagheri, who has been involved with the expansion project since the beginning.
"This is a momentous day," Bagheri said. "What was a general aviation airport can now handle aircraft up to 40,000 pounds, the size of most corporate jets. This is very significant for economic development and the Louisville Airport Industrial Park."
The dedication was attended by the entire Louisville city council, county commissioners, the mayors and some council members of Wrens and Bartow, Rep. Jimmy Lord, board members of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and Development Authority of Jefferson County, representatives of Sen. Zell Miller and Rep. Max Burns and numerous business leaders.
The event was also attended by local aviators, including longtime pilots Jimmy McKnight and Pierre Smith. The exhilaration on their faces was impossible to miss.
"I think it's great, I'm just so proud of it," said McKnight, a steadfast supporter of the expansion. "We're so proud to have the runway completed. Corporate people have to be able to fly in and now they can come here to visit our county."
Louisville airport is one of 27 airports throughout the state designated as regional airports in a statewide aviation plan devised in the mid-1990s. The optimum length for runways at all regional airports is 5,500 feet. The topography at the Louisville airport prohibited expansion beyond 5,000 feet due to the presence of a pond on the east side of the airport and the cost associated with such an expansion.
Initial inquiries into establishing an airport in Louisville took place in 1961. The airport was constructed later in the 1960s. Much of the current six-year expansion process included an environmental study, surveys and appraisals and land acquisition. Beam's Contracting of Beech Island provided the lowest bid for the construction phase of the expansion. Beam's $1,404,936.32 bid was the lowest of five local and regional bidders.
Six years after the process began the project was completed. Louisville City Administrator Donnie Rhodes summed up the expansion project, saying, "This is a great for Louisville."
Meet local candidates at forums
By Ben Nelms
Residents of Jefferson and Glascock counties will soon have the opportunity to have their questions answered and candidates seeking local elected office will have the chance to make their positions known.
Three upcoming venues designed to enlighten voters will be held July 8, 9 and 10.
The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter will sponsor its first Candidates Forum for all contested races for local elected office in Jefferson County. These include coroner's and sheriff's races and county commission races for Districts 2 and 4 and chairman.
All candidates have indicated that they will participate. The forum will be held July 8 beginning at 5:45 p.m. in the Jefferson County High School auditorium.
The forum is designed to have questions posed to candidates by residents and is not intended to be a debate between candidates. The forum will feature candidates for the three commission races onstage together, followed by a brief intermission with food provided. The forum will continue with questions for the coroner candidates followed by candidates for sheriff.
Questions during the forum will take three forms.
First asked will be those questions, two for each office, submitted ahead of time to candidates and published in this week's edition of this newspaper. Those will be followed by questions from the audience. Microphones will be provided to ensure that candidates and residents both understand the questions. The third form of questions, time permitting, will come from those having been submitted in writing and brought to the forum. The moderator for the event, newspaper Editor Parish Howard, will draw from a box containing written questions deposited by residents when they arrive. Candidates will be provided with time to make summary remarks at the end of the question period.
The Glascock County Candidates Forum will take place the following evening. The event will be held July 9 from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. at the old school in Gibson. The forum is sponsored by Glascock County Chamber of Commerce and The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter.
Also a first of its kind, the forum will feature candidates from all local contested races, including county commission, school board and sheriff's races and any others that may apply. The format of the forum will mirror the one used for the Jefferson County forum. Candidates for school races will begin the forum, followed by sheriff's candidates and ending with county commission candidates. The forum moderator will be newspaper writer Ben Nelms.
Specific to the Glascock forum is the method for residents to submit written questions. Residents can either bring written questions to the forum, place them in the drop-box provided at JMP Hardware in Gibson or mail them to Ben Nelms at The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter.
An Open House will be held at the old school beginning at 5:30 p.m. Hot dogs and ice cream will be sold at the Open House.
Central to both forums is public participation. Residents are asked to pose meaningful, relevant questions that all candidates for a particular race can address. Following that rationale, each candidate will have the opportunity to respond to all questions from the audience, thereby providing voters with the maximum amount of information to help them decide which candidates for vote for.
Candidates at both forums are encouraged to bring literature for the public. Forum organizers will provide an area for public access to campaign literature. Local Democratic and Republican parties are also encouraged to have material available to the public.
A third forum, to be held July 10 at the recreation park in Wadley, is sponsored by the C. E. Brown Kidney Fund and Support Group. The group's first Family and Friends Day/Political Forum will run from 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Event co-organizer Lee Shellman said candidates will be scheduled for 10-12 minute presentations to familiarize residents with their platform positions. Candidates are encouraged to mingle in the crowd to answer questions, Shellman said.
Newspaper receives 10 awards from Georgia Press
The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter was recognized this past weekend at the Georgia Press Association's annual Better Newspaper Contest Banquet where it received 10 awards for superior content, including a second place overall General Excellence Award.
"I couldn't be more proud of our staff," Editor Parish Howard said Tuesday. "Everyone here works very hard to provide Jefferson and Glascock counties with a superb product. While our readers are the ones who really count, it is nice to also be recognized by peers in our profession."
In addition to its General Excellence Award, the newspaper also received second places awards for Layout and Design, Community Service and Special Issues for its Conversations With the Past: Korean War section.
The Community Service Award recognized the efforts of Staff Writer Ben Nelms in his stories and columns and on-going coverage of the Jefferson County landfill.
"It seems we never worry about a drink of water until the well runs dry," judges of this category commented. "Decent job reminding readers that 'out of sight' should not be out of mind when it comes to the environment and health."
As a staff, the paper was also recognized with a third place award for religion coverage which was largely due to work by the newspaper's high school apprentices.
As individuals, both Howard and Nelms were recognized for writing and photography.
Howard received a first place award for Sports Writing, which included stories on Kim McKenzie racing go-carts, Fernando Velasco signing with the University of Georgia and Kayci Howell being the first JCHS student to earn a softball scholarship to college.
"Best developed storytelling style in the crowd...lifts Mr. Howard's efforts ahead of the rest," the judges said of the three-story-entry.
Howard also received a first place Feature Photo Award for a picture of Jefferson County law enforcement officers on the courthouthouse lawn on Memorial Day.
Howard received a third place award for Feature Writing.
Nelms also received a second place award for Spot News Photo for a fatal wreck in the Wadley area and a second place award for Investigative Reporting on several different stories.
"While a couple of us did receive individual awards, none of this recognition could be possible without the dedicated work of every single person on our staff," Howard said.