Airport authority receives update on projects


Rehabilitation of the main runway at Freeman Municipal Airport is expected to start in May, and a taxiway will have improved lighting as a result.

During a recent Seymour Municipal Airport Authority meeting, Paul Shaffer, executive vice president of BF&S in Indianapolis, provided an update on the projects.

He said a preconstruction teleconference was planned for last week on the rehabilitation of Runway 5-23. Dave O’Mara Contractor Inc. of North Vernon is waiting on the electrical contractor to obtain components for the lighting before work can begin.

Shaffer said work should begin around the third week of May, and the runway will not be out of service until all of the parts are onsite.

“It sounds like the issue is not if we can get the electrical but it’s just going to be delayed, is that right?” authority President Brian Thompson asked.

“I don’t think anybody believes that it won’t come,” Shaffer said, noting the manufacturer is on the East Coast, where the COVID-19 outbreak has been high.

Shaffer said the project includes 29 LED elevated taxiway edge lights and three signs on Taxiway C up to the new apron.

Airport Manager Don Furlow said there are 14 older lights in the area that need to be replaced.

“It needs it badly,” he said. “It’s got lights on it, but those lights, they’ve been there forever as far as I know.”

While those weren’t included in the initial project, a change order the authority approved during the meeting may be used toward replacing the lights. Shaffer said $103,000 was taken out of the runway project and moved to the taxiway project.

“The lighting will be much better on (the taxiway). If you want to add lights further, we can look at change ordering a couple more in,” Shaffer said.

“After this is complete, we’ll have old, original lighting basically from the apron to the taxiway split or just before it that will have all new lights down to the end. It seems like it would be best to have them more consistent,” Thompson said.

Thompson asked Shaffer to look into replacing the lights Furlow mentioned and present that at the authority’s next meeting.

The runway project involves shortening it by 1,000 feet on the northeast end and adding 1,500 feet to the southwest end. The project is needed to pave the way for construction of the future Burkart Boulevard south bypass, which will connect Burkart Boulevard on the east side of the city to Airport Road in Freeman Field on the west side.

When complete, the runway will measure 6,000 feet in length, making it more suitable for increased corporate air traffic, Thompson said at a meeting in February.

That will make the airport more available for corporate aviation, which Thompson said is growing more than the single-engine private ownership side.

The project ties in with efforts by Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. and the Seymour Redevelopment Commission to attract and retain business in Seymour and grow the community.

To complement the runway, 1,500 feet of parallel taxiway will be constructed, and other taxiway intersection work will be completed.

The project also will help address a couple of ongoing concerns the Federal Aviation Administration has with the airport, Thompson said.

The first issue is the approach to Runway 5-23, which runs from northeast to southwest. That approach crosses over South Walnut Street (State Road 11). Moving 1,000 feet of it from the northeast end of the runway to the southwest end into what is now a field would move the approach away from Walnut Street and eliminate that issue.

The second involves the south ends of Runway 5-23 and Runway 14-32, which meet. The FAA was potentially going to restrict the airport on any future projects if that wasn’t corrected even though the airport’s runways are the same length, Thompson said.

Funding for the $5 million project, which was approved by the FAA in December 2019, is coming from the redevelopment commission using tax increment finance revenue generated from the city’s TIF districts, not an increase in property taxes.

Construction will be completed in three phases to avoid total closure of the airport. Runway 5-23 will be closed for a majority of the project, and Runway 14-32 will be substantially displaced during construction of the parallel taxiway crossing.

Notifications of restrictions and closings will be broadcast by radio to pilots.

In 2016, a $1 million project involved rehabilitation of Taxiway A, which connects aircraft to Runway 5-23 for takeoffs and landings. A portion of it was rebuilt in 2013 as part of a larger project to reconstruct and strengthen Runway 5-23 to allow heavier aircraft to land.

Furlow said the runway was constructed during World War II when the airport was a military base used for pilot training.

Age and use have taken a toll, and the taxiway that parallels the runway is in the same condition, he said.

When the old taxiway was built more than 70 years ago, it was designed for different types of aircraft than the airport sees today.

The goal is to strengthen the airport’s facilities to accommodate heavier, more modern aircraft, such as cargo planes, jets and military aircraft. Furlow said the hope is that the upgrades will attract more business.

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