School, city meet again about airport
Gainesville City Council members, Gainesville Memorial Airport manager Ron Weldon, city attorney Lee Pipkin and Gainesville Schools superintendent Jeff Hyatt were to meet again Tuesday evening to discuss the issue of the airport’s proximity to the school. Because a real estate matter was to be discussed, the group met in closed session – as it had done a week earlier as part of the regular Gainesville City Council meeting.
After this week’s meeting, it’s expected that a public hearing will be scheduled so that area residents may express comments and ideas about the possibility of closing the airport or relocating it to another site.
The school was built on what is now Bulldog Drive in 1962, approximately 14 years after land across the road was donated for an airport “dedicated to war veterans,” as stated on the sign that stands by the airport’s city-owned hangar.
The issue of the airport’s proximity to the school arose most recently as the school was developing a site east of the junior high wing where a new, modular preschool building is to be constructed. Michael Vaughan, of Summersville, president of chapter 20 of the Missouri Pilots Association, questioned the preschool’s location at the end of the airport runway.
As a result, the school and the city began discussions, and federal and state aviation agencies have gotten involved.
Hyatt told the Times Monday that the Federal Aviation Authority is going to conduct an aeronautical study of the area, with a report expected in 30 to 45 days. “The FAA was shocked that no study had ever been done. Basically both the high school and elementary buildings are in what’s considered the flight zone, which is an area of 20,000 feet, almost four miles,” he said.
Hyatt said his understanding was that the FAA would not stop construction of the preschool building, “but it’s going to be labeled as being in a hazardous area. Actually, the whole campus is.”
With that as the underlying fact, “there really can be only two different goals: either the airport moves, or the school moves. And given that we have a grass strip used by maybe six planes a year, the only logical choice seems to be that the airport would move,” Hyatt said.
The issue is “probably going to bring a lot of attention to this district,” he said. “But I believe the school and the city will come together and come up with a plan for going forward. It may well turn out to be a positive.”