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Airport projects among improvements eyed in St. Pete

Tribune staff
Published:   |   Updated: May 8, 2013 at 06:43 AM
ST. PETERSBURG -

Hangar 1 at Albert Whitted Municipal Airport is old.

Built in the 1940s, the run-down hangar needs frequent repairs.

“We’ve put Band-Aids on it over the years,” said Airport Manager Rich Lesniak. “It’s outlived its life cycle.”

Over the next few years, the hangar will be demolished and replaced as part of a $2.9 million redevelopment of the airport that includes the resurfacing of one of Whitted’s two runways.

Both projects are part of the city’s five-year plan for capital projects that City Council members reviewed Tuesday. Neither project is likely to make a serious dent in the city’s capital budget.

Roughly 98 percent of the $1.7 million cost of resurfacing Runway 7/25 is coming from grants from the Federal Aviation Authority and the Florida Department of Transportation.

The FDOT is also paying 80 percent of the $1.2 million cost of the new 10,000-square-foot hangar that could include office space to attract more corporate clients, such as private jet firms, to the airport.

That would help the airport expand, Lesniak said. About 85,000 small aircraft flights begin or end at Albert Whitted, which is home to about 185 airplanes.

The threat of losing its control tower could dampen those plans. The airport is one of 14 in Florida that the FAA has said it will close as a result of the sequestration-mandated funding cuts.

Mayor Bill Foster said he still expects the FAA to change course but that the airport would remain viable even if the tower is closed.

“I don’t think that will deter people from wanting to house their airplanes at Albert Whitted,” he said.

Another opportunity for expansion could come from the closing down of a city waste-water treatment plant on the southeast corner of the airport.

Council members Tuesday asked Foster to look at how the land overlooking Tampa Bay could be used.

“You don’t very often get waterfront land available,” said Council Chairman Karl Nurse. “I don’t want to assume it will all be used for the airport. It’s valuable land.”


codonnell@tampatribune.com

(727) 215-7654

Twitter: @codonnellTBO

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