Murfreesboro’s Municipal Airport received a second chance for a runway extension at Thursday’s Murfreesboro City Council meeting.
Airport Administrator Chad Gehrke returned to council chambers with a scaled-down version of the 5,000-foot airport runway layout plan, which failed in a 3-4 decision in early September.
Gehke proposed a 4,750-foot runway layout compromise that he said would satisfy all FAA requirements for the expansion, but would hinder pilots in properly insuring larger airplanes for landing at the airport.
During a public hearing on the matter, several pilots and airport officials expressed their displeasure with the compromise and continued to urge the 5,000-foot extension.
“If this is the compromise that gets this through, that’s fine, but don’t come complaining to me when a major corporation is seeking a larger airport in order to locate here in Rutherford County, and is forced to go elsewhere,” Airport Commission Chairman George Huddleston said.
Gill Walker, of Williamson County, expressed his displeasure with the compromise, and echoed Huddleston’s statements regarding economic development opportunities.
“I park three airplanes at the Murfreesboro Airport because of the professional staff, who do an excellent job,” he said.
Walker recognized MTSU’s aerospace department as a five-star world-class program and one of only three such programs in the nation according to industry trade publications.
He said the major reason Saturn did not locate near his home in Williamson County was the inadequate size of that county’s airport, opting instead to build a plant in Maury County’s Spring Hill community, which now represents more than $1 billion in economic investment.
But a few residents continued to voice their disapproval of any airport expansion.
“I’ve been in these council chambers so many times for this issue, I feel like should be paying rent,” said Steve Murphy, who, along with former councilwoman Mary Huhta, became a leader in successfully opposing the initial 5,000-foot airport extension proposal.
He and Huhta returned to chambers again Thursday, speaking in opposition of the shorter extension as well.
Huhta urged the council to deny the proposal and immediately work to determine a 20-year plan for the airport instead.
“The airport will eventually reach a point that it can no longer expand, unless it is willing to buy out the homeowners in Northwoods subdivision,” she said.
Councilwoman Madelyn Scales-Harris, though, was pleased a compromise had been reached between area residents and airport administrators.
“I am very happy that the citizens of our community could come together and determine a compromise that most everyone can agree with,” she said.
Long considered the swing vote on the council for any successful airport extension proposal, Councilman Shane McFarland expressed his support for the extension prior to the vote.
“We’re never going to be able to please everybody involved, but at the end of the day, I believe the 4,750-foot extension is a fair compromise.”
Councilman Toby Gilley then motioned to approve the airport extension, conditional upon additional noise monitoring systems suggested by Scales-Harris.
The extension recommendation gained unanimous approval.