Airport Restorations Continue Following Tornado, Hangar Collapse

Officials still plan to hold this October an airshow at the airport despite the damage sustained during a tornado and accompanying storms.

Members of the Paulding County Airport Authority continue their operations to clean up and restore the airport facility since re-opening last Friday morning after . Airport officials gave updates on the financial impact to the site, both now and in the future, during Wednesday’s PCAA and Industrial Building Authority meetings, which were moved out of the airport terminal building and held at the Watson Government Complex while repairs continue at the airport.

Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport Director Blake Swafford told airport authority board members that damages to the site totaled about $1 million, with most of the damage affecting the terminal building’s roof.

Jeff Beale, general manager of Paulding Jet Center, said that the count for aircraft totaled by the tornado and accompanying storms stands at 17, consisting mostly of small private plans and one commercial jet. Beale said that 10 of 13 hangars will need to be replaced and the remaining three need repairs. The construction is estimated at four to five months, he added.

Of the private owners who lost planes, about 50 percent will replace their planes, Beale told members of the board.

“Some will and some won’t, and it can take a long time. Some of them have their heart and soul wrapped up in them, and finding another plane is not easy,” he said.

But, Beale added, a waiting list still exists for hangar spaces—that could help fill the void going forward as new hangars are completed this summer.

Impact to PJC sales was about 95 percent over the last month due to the tornado damage, Beale said. That led the PCAA board to vote in favor of a 60-day waiver of rent and fuel flowage fees to PJC to help offset downtime of its operations during the rebuild. Fuel flowage fees are a 16-cent tax tacked onto the per-gallon gas price.

Air show committee member David Carmichael, who is point man for the October air show, said that most of the potential performers in the show had offered their support to the airport tornado relief fund. Plans for the show will continue without changes despite recent setbacks caused by the tornado, Carmichael said.

Swafford also reported that Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials are wrapping up their site investigation of that and injured another. While OSHA has not concluded its investigation, Swafford noted that officials indicated to him that the site could be cleared soon to continue the project, provided that the metal, bolts and other material involved in the collapse is removed from the foundation to a secured location and remains available for some agreed-upon period of time for future inspection. OSHA’s official findings could be several months away, Swafford added.

Officials have sights set on business prospects

A site originally targeted to become a rail-spur industrial park on 130 acres on Bill Carruth Parkway is being transitioned into the Paulding Commerce Park, a corporate business park. The original focus as a rail-spur was later deemed unfeasible, but the altered development would still contain a rail component for future use, Swafford said.

Jamie Gilbert, director of Paulding Economic Development, is currently focused on a prospect for an international firm coming to Paulding, which he characterized as a “game changer,” and one other prospect is a film industry-related firm, he said.

Gilbert also said that final maps for the new opportunity zone are due this week. A revised plan submitted jointly by the county and the city of Dallas was approved earlier this year. An opportunity zone is a state redevelopment tool that provides local companies within designated boundaries increased incentives and benefits for job creation.

And Jeremy Hariton, spokesman for Roadtown Enterprises, said that construction on the new film production facility in Hiram is completed, adding that the company is now in the process of a “full-phase marketing blitz.”

“We’re showing the property to every show that’s coming into town, even shows that are currently shooting; we’re having people come out and see it so that they know we’re here. We’ve been talking to a show now for about eight weeks that starts really big pre-production sometime next month, and I think we’re still in the running to hopefully land that project. And we’ve started to show the studio for summer projects as well,” Hariton told officials.

Hariton said that other promotional efforts through social media are underway and that a website being constructed will be available soon and will include online three-dimensional tours of the facility. An open house of the Hiram facility is planned for some time this spring, he said.


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