LUMBERTON — The Lumberton Municipal Airport has been awarded $623,000 to begin improvements to its terminal building.
The money is part of $10.2 million in state and federal funds for improvements to 19 North Carolina airports approved by the N.C. Board of Transportation during the board’s April and May meetings. The city and county will contribute $69,200 in matching money.
The money will be used for site preparation, demolition of the current buildings, laying services and infrastructure.
The airport expects to use state and federal grants totaling $2.4 million to add conference space and pilot facilities at the airport on Airport Boulevard and to enhance the Robeson County Economic Development offices, which shares space.
Engineering designs are being finished and bidding is to begin in June or July, said Troy Gammon, airport manager. Construction will take eight months to a year.
The new terminal will have larger conference space, an observation deck, expanded offices, and a pilots’ lounge, he said.
“When Sanderson Farms was coming in here regularly, they were trying to get 35 to 40 people in a room for 15,” Gammon said. “The new space will be 600 square feet, with a room divider to create two smaller rooms. Each will have its own AV (audio/visual) system. It will be designed for businesses with a larger conference space, and a much larger lobby.
“There is no current after-hours access to the terminal buildings. The new terminal will have access even at 2 a.m. to the room and for a pilot to stay until morning.”
Greg Cummings, the recently retired county Economic Development director, said the enhancement will help in the recruitment of business and industry. Often the first thing prospects see is the airport.
“The new design will be a strong marketing tool,” Cummings said. “We’ll be able to impress our clients with a state-of-the-art technical design, with offices, a board room and a kitchen. We’ll be able to serve food, create a banquet, that sort of thing. We have Fortune 500 clients coming through here.”
Two 5,000-foot-long runways allow top-level jets to land at the facility.
“We have the interstate corridor, University of North Carolina Pembroke, COMtech, and the med center,” Cummings said. “It will be our first showcase. When it’s completed, you’ll think you’re in the Research Triangle Park because of the quality. It will compete with any economic development center in the state.”
The second grant, for $1.1 million, is for construction of the building.
The third is a Federal Aviation Administration Non-Primary Entitlement grant worth $150,000. This grant is awarded each year to small airports, like Lumberton Municipal, that have fewer than 10,000 passenger boardings a year.
The city of Lumberton receives $150,000 each year from the FAA and is allowed to hold on to the money for four years. Combined with the $16,667 in annual matching city and county money that funding pot now contains $667,000 to be used for airport improvements.
The Lumberton Public Works department will be doing work at the airport that isn’t included in the grant.
While the new construction is underway, the airport will continue operations in temporary housing. The County Economic Development offices will relocate to the county recreation building.
“The (airport) offices will move to the old University of North Dakota building, and hanger tenants to the school building,” Gammon said.
The University of North Dakota had worked in conjunction with Robeson Community College to create a flight school in 2007-2008. The students would transfer to the UND campus for their final two years of schooling. The school shut down and left behind its hanger and offices.
“Our fueling services will also continue unstopped by this change. Twenty-four hour services for AVgas and jet fuel will be available. We may build a temporary building for this service,” Gammon said.
The N.C. DOT board also awarded a $275,000 grant to the Laurinburg–Maxton Airport to fund a localizer replacement. A localizer allows an aircraft to line up correctly with the runway’s axis using an instrument landing system.
Reach David Bradley at 910-416-5182 or [email protected]