published Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Cleveland airport making final approach

CLEVELAND, Tenn — The Cleveland Regional Jetport is nearing operational readiness, according to Municipal Airport Authority officials.

On Friday, the airport's governing board discussed progress on runway and terminal construction, hangar leasing agreements and the venture's final management structure, with an eye toward a January grand opening.

"It's almost like a dance," said Ron Fitzgerald, vice president of PDC Consultants, in regard to the number of contractors working on the site, from grading earth to setting fences to pouring the concrete runway.

The site's electrical lines and conduits resemble a "spaghetti factory," said Fitzgerald, who noted that the airport already has several miles of cable and wire underground.

"You will have the first airport in Tennessee that is totally LED," Fitzgerald reported to the board, in regard to the airport's lighting systems. "From the number of lights you're getting, you'll appreciate that."

The airport should expect to see significant savings on electricity bills and reduced maintenance because of the decision to use LED lighting, Fitzgerald said.

The runway, composed of 124,000 square yards of concrete, is expected to be sealed by Thanksgiving, he said. After that, the airstrip will receive painting and markings.

Construction of the airport's 8,000-square-foot terminal, designed to resemble an upscale East Tennessee chalet, is shaping up according to plan, said Lou Patten, vice chairman of the airport panel.

"It will knock your socks off," Patten said, adding the terminal will serve its intended purpose of making a great impression on corporate visitors and other guests of Cleveland.

Regarding special visitors, the board announced that Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to make an appearance at the Cleveland Regional Jetport for its grand opening. No date has been set, but it appeared that scheduling could limit the date to a Monday or a Friday.

The board is ready to move forward with construction of hangars for airport users and voted 5-0 to allow some special considerations for those who will require smaller spaces.

According to a proposed amendment to leasing agreements, the Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority may waive the requirement for a performance bond to construct hangars costing less than $100,000. Instead, the board would require an approved letter of credit.

The board next wants to tackle how the command structure for the airport will function. Officials say that Mark Fidler, the airport's director of marketing and operations, will play a role, possibly in some fashion with fixed-base operator Crystal Air, which services Cleveland's Hardwick Field.

The Cleveland Municipal Authority Board plans to address the matter during a special meeting Dec. 3 at the city municipal building.

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