Efforts underway to make Troy Airport deer free

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 12, 2001

Staff Writer

A fencing project initiated by deer on runways at the Troy Municipal Airport is underway.

The project was put at the top of priorities after a Lear jet owned by the Dallas Cowboys football organization hit two deer on a runway, causing severe injuries to the plane’s two occupants and total destruction of the aircraft. That incident occurred on Jan. 14.

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Another similar incident was reported the following week, but damage to that aircraft was not as severe and nobody was injured.

Since those January run-ins with deer, city officials have had other reports of deer on the runway, forcing them to take quick action to eliminate that danger.

"Safety is the reason we’re doing what we’re doing," Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said.

Economic development also played into the decision-making process.

For example, improvements at the airport will have a great impact on a large missile production contract for Lockheed Martin Pike County Operations announced earlier this year. Work on the

Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Weapon System, which will be transported by aircraft, will begin in 2004.

"We must get this project completed," Lunsford said of installing the fencing.

Terry Macaluso, vice president of Barge Waggoner Sumner & Cannon Inc. in Dothan, outlined the airport fencing project for city council members on Tuesday.

Next week, bids will be opened on the fencing project that should install an 11-foot wildlife fence around the airport to keep deer and other animals off the runways.

After those bids are opened Thursday afternoon, Macaluso will submit a grant application to the Federal Aviation Administration, which has already offered assistance.

"We’ll open bids next week and submit grant applications based on those numbers," Macaluso told council members.

Estmates for the project that will involve almost five miles of fence are between $450,000 and $600,000.

Plans are to bury the fence so burrowing animals will also be kept off the runways, Macaluso said.

The second part of the airport improvement project will involve extending the major runway. That extension, Macaluso said, will put Runway 7 above state standards, but will still fall 30 feet short of federal standards.

State regulations require a 200-foot safety zone at the end of the runway and it’s recommended the zone be 220 to 225 feet.

Cost of the extension project is estimated to be between $60,000 and $80,000.

In order to complete the extension, the city needs the county’s cooperation in condemning Oak Grove Road.

"I did not make that recommendation lightly," Macaluso said of the road closure.

However, the FAA has informed him if the city plans to use federal dollars on the project, the runway needs to be brought up to standard.

Macaluso said the option of re-routing the roadway has been thrown out because of cost.

It would cost about $250,000 to re-route the road because of wetlands and a church cemetery in that vicinity.

"The pros of closing that road far outweigh the negatives," Macaluso said. "It is absolutely vital, although it’s something that will probably inconvenience some people on this road."

Access to homes on Oak Grove Road will not be restricted. Rather, those residents will just have to travel a bit further to get to Troy.

Lunsford said he plans to, personally, talk with those living in that area and wants to give them the opportunity to speak at a public hearing.

The Pike County Commission also must give its permission since only part of the roadway is in the city limits.

Macaluso said the airport’s license could be in danger if work on the runway extension is not done by the end of the year.