by Olivia Allison
At Boydton’s regular town council meeting on Tuesday night, council members heard an update presentation from Mike Denton with the Lake Country Regional Airport Commission, formerly the Clarksville-Boydton Airport.
“We have expanded and evolved, we have had a busy last few years,” Denton told council, noting that the airport was the recent recipient of a new name, a new unconditional license, a new weather observation system, a new 24-hour automated fuel system and the facility will soon have a new and improved runway.
The new $140,000 weather observation system gives pilots the opportunity to call ahead and learn about the exact weather at the airport before they arrive.
“The pilots can call ahead and see what the weather is on that moment on that field,” Denton said. “Pilots can check the weather from the air, the computer, by telephone or radio, there are all kinds of options.”
The facility also boasts a new 24-hour automated fuel system.
“The new fuel system is working out really good,” Denton said. “Now, pilots are able to come in at 3 in the morning, swipe a credit card, get their fuel and be on their way. We are expected to bring in three times the traffic to the area, just by offering that one simple thing.”
Denton explained there has been a down side to all the additions and upgrades.
“The DEQ (the Department of Environmental Quality) is famous for rules and regulations coming at you from every way,” he said. “We certainly have had a handful of them that we have had to deal with every day. For example, aviation obstructions. This tree, which wasn’t in the way 10 years ago, all of a sudden someone says the tree is in the way now, so we have to go in and take seven acres of trees down because of that one tree. And you better do it, or you won’t get your license.”
Well, the efforts have paid off as Denton informed council of some good news in regard to conforming to all rules and regulations.
“This year was the first year in the airport’s modern history that we have an unconditional license,” he said.
He told council the facility is averaging about five operations per day now, which adds up to over 1,000 operations per year.
Denton also told council that the airport now has a courtesy car, a vehicle that pilots and travelers can use to explore the area while on layover.
He noted that visitors to the area have had nothing but good things to say about the area’s attractions and citizens. He also commended the county as a whole, the individual towns and the tourism department for promoting and showcasing the area so successfully to visitors.
“We have had a lot of nice comments about our community,” Denton said, explaining that the airport offers a questionnaire type review to those who visit. “People have a blast here, they love our area. They say they want to come back and visit again.”
Denton went on to speak about future plans for the facility, including a new runway.
“Back in the ’70s, they started the expansion of the runway and they kind of did it in a little bit of a hurry. Well, 40 years later, the runway is deteriorating, and it doesn’t meet the standards. So, what we are going to be faced with is rebuilding the runway and possibly shortening it a little bit,” Denton said.
He also noted that the runway has eroded over the years and that issue would be corrected too. Excess dirt, taken from shortening the runway, could be used to correct the erosion.
“This is going to be a fairly large project,” he said.
He went on to explain that funding for this project or others could be obtained through a general 80/20 aviation project grant. The Virginia Department of Aviation would pay for 80 percent of the project, leaving the airport responsible for 20 percent of the funding.
“Even today, that 20 percent is tough on our community, and we know that,” Denton said. “We are scrambling like crazy to find that money or find other grants that will meet the costs. We are going to work our way through it. We are going to get it done.”
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, council moved to have the town create an account to house the Boydton Day funds, as the Boydton Ruritan Club, which has sadly shrunk down to only four members, will no longer be heading up Boydton Day due to its low membership. A Boydton Day Committee is in place to plan and execute the event, however the committee does not have the means to hold the funds. The council agreed that it would create an account to hold the funds, however the town would not touch the money. The committee would still have control of the funds. The council also discussed redesigning the town’s website in order to offer more information and make it easier to access.
Also on Tuesday, the council announced the Historic Boydton’s Renaissance annual Community Officials Breakfast. The breakfast is open to any Boydton business and will be held on Wednesday, March 18, at 7:30 a.m. at the Old Town Club on Park Street in Boydton.