In advance of a meeting dotted with airport issues, the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday was given a firsthand look at expansion projects under way at the city's municipal airport.
Traveling in two separate vehicles, council members made a number of stops at various airport locations where Public Works Director Steve Bonebrake and Maintenance Department Manager Doug Schoessler described ongoing work including the addition of a new gravel and ski strip runway, revised and added taxiways leading from the tarmac to the runways, new lighting being installed around hangar areas and earth moving for added lease lots at the northeast corner of the property.
They also pointed out the path for the proposed rerouting of Funny River Road around recently acquired Hodges property at the northwest corner of the airport.
Before actually entering the airport grounds, Bonebrake and Schoessler showed the group of lawmakers and newly appointed City Manager Larry Semmens a warehouse building being built outside the airport's north perimeter fence for Samaritan's Purse, the international relief organization that flies supplies and building materials from the Soldotna airport to remote Alaska villages and Far East Russia.
The largest share of the $6 million in capital improvements going in at the airport is the $3 million gravel runway nearing completion south of the airport's 5,000-foot paved runway.
The 2,300-foot gravel landing strip will be completed by the end of August or early September, according to Mark Blanning, project engineer for Wince, Corthell, Bryson.
In addition to putting in the gravel strip, which Schoessler said is preferred by private pilots flying planes with oversized tundra tires, new taxiways are being built between the tarmac and the main runway and safety zones are being improved at the east and west ends of the runways.
A perimeter service road is being built inside the south fence and 28 lighted taxiway and runway signs are being installed.
Bonebrake said the city has contracted with Vernel Schneider to farm the infield areas around the runways in hay. He said the 20-year contract allows Schneider to plant about 100 acres.
Also being added are a number of new tie-down parking spots for private airplanes, and the new lease lots being cleared will be available for building airplane hangars.
Because much of the soil in the lease lot area was considered unsuitable for building, the looser dirt needs to be removed and replaced. The council was being asked Wednesday night to approve a $160,000 change order to allow Wolverine Supply, Inc. to complete the work.
Other airport related measures on the council agenda for Wednesday night involved removing 37 acres at the east end of the runway from the Airport Property Plan primarily because the land was deemed no longer necessary for Federal Aviation Administration plans and because it includes the eight to 10-acre parcel the city is eying for its municipal cemetery.
Council members also were given a look at the proposed cemetery land.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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