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Dec 28, 2017 11:13 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town Board Approves $2.1 Million For New Taxiway At Airport

Planes turn off the segemented taxiway alongside East Hampton Airport's main runway. The town has approved spending $2.1 million to connect the two portions of taxiway into a single 4,200-foot lane. Michael Wright
Jan 1, 2018 2:01 PM

The East Hampton Town Board has approved borrowing $2.1 million to construct a new taxiway alongside East Hampton Airport’s main runway—over the objections of many airport critics, and Councilwoman Sylvia Overby.

On December 21, the board agreed to issue bonds for the project even though several local residents and Ms. Overby voiced the concern that creating the new 4,200-foot-long taxiway would effectively be increasing the capacity of the airport, even as the town starts the process of applying to the Federal Aviation Administration to restrict aircraft use.

“Any increase in operational ground capacity comes at the expense of residents’ well-being,” said Patricia Curry, a member of the residents group Say No To KHTO, which has advocated for closing the airport. “More parking means more and bigger jets, seaplanes and helicopters. That spells expansion to us.”

Ms. Overby questioned the logic of spending millions on a project that is not critical for safety or demanded by the FAA when the town is about to embark on the application to restrict flights—known as a Part 161 application—and calls from residents for closing the facility altogether are growing.

“I don’t know why we continue to put more money into the airport,” Ms. Overby said. “I understand it’s more convenient to have that taxiway, but I would now like to put our money and our effort into the Part 161 and not start spending money in ways that may increase traffic at the airport.”

At the December 21 meeting Ms. Overby introduced a motion to table the proposal to approve the borrowing, saying it should wait until the new Town Board took power in January.

That board includes Councilman-elect Jeff Bragman, who has represented neighbors in legal challenges to the airport’s operations in the past, and a fifth, as-yet-undetermined board member who will be appointed on January 2.

Ms. Overby’s motion found no support from the other four members, who brought the resolution to a vote. It was approved 4-1, with Ms. Overby voting against.

The plans for the new taxiway call for connecting two segments of existing taxiway that run parallel to the airport’s main runway. The new taxiway will make it easier for planes to transit from the runway to the parking tarmac, and will create more room for parking aircraft on certain parts of the tarmac.

In a related matter, the board also resolved on December 21, at the instruction of the FAA, to have one of the airport’s two smaller runways, known as 4-22, painted and lighted as a taxiway, not a runway.

Earlier in the week, the board had debated whether the town should borrow for the construction work, or pay for it out of the anticipated $7.5 million surplus reserve the airport’s financial accounts will have once the sale of three properties that were originally part of the airport goes through early in 2018.

Board members decided that paying for the repaving and new construction work with the bond should be approved now so that the work could begin, and if the board decided to pay for it from reserve funds later, it could do so.

The project will create about 1,000 feet of new pavement, connecting the existing portions of the runway at the eastern and western ends of the runway, and repave about another 1,000 feet of what exists currently. The taxiway will also get new LED lighting.

At the meeting, Wainscott resident Arthur French told board members they should not be doing any work at the airport that is not expressly demanded by the FAA.

“You campaigned on a promise to the public to mitigate this nuisance that we have up there,” Mr. French said. “To do things that the FAA doesn’t require leaves me to scratch my head. The noise is horrendous as it is.”

The board is also considering a proposal to relocate and elevate the airport’s control tower, to give the flight controllers better views of aircraft approaching the airport, especially in poor weather. Reconfiguring the control tower would cost an estimated $700,000 to $800,000, according to the town.

Critics have also called that proposal a threat of more aircraft traffic, because it would make it easier for some planes to land at the airport in inclement weather with the help of flight controllers. Airport manager James Brundige said that since flights are still coming to the airport under bad weather, moving and raising the control tower would merely make it easier for controllers to see them as the aircraft approach at lower altitudes that usual.

After the work session, the board shelved the discussion of the tower until the new year to gather more information about the benefits of changing the tower’s setup.

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