April 16, 2009
Neal Wagner -
Members of the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors Tuesday moved a step closer to fulfilling their "promises to Stark Aerospace" by closing a portion of Raymond Road near the Golden Triangle Regional Airport.
The board voted unanimously to close about 1,300 feet of the road running east and west between Airport Road and Billups Gate Road near Stark Aerospace''s facility in the Golden Triangle Industrial Park.
About 300 feet of the east-west part of the road will remain after the closure, and will be used primarily by Stark, explained Columbus-Lowndes Development Link Chief Executive Officer Joe Higgins.
"The road closure will be about 300 feet into the road that''s there now," Higgins said. "On that piece of road, Stark will have a secure entrance to its grounds near the airport."
A section of Raymond Road running north-south between Billups Gate Road and North Frontage Road will remain open, said GTRA Executive Director Mike Hainsey.
"Raymond Road is a little weird over there," said Hainsey. "They only closed the east-west section of the road, but the north-south section that is essentially an extension of Billups Gate Road will remain open."
After the road is closed, Stark will construct a taxiway from the GTRA runway to its facility. The aerospace company will use the taxiway to transport materials and aircraft between its plant and the runway.
The road closing will have little impact on motorists, as the newly constructed Charleigh Ford Road north of Raymond Road will allow access from Airport Road to Billups Gate Road, Higgins said.
"Part of recruiting Stark to come here involved a plan for closing Raymond Road," Higgins told the board. "For Stark to be able to expand and do what they need to do over there, we need to close Raymond Road."
Because there are a few residents around the airport who use Raymond Road to transport large farm equipment, GTRA crews will remove several large trees and stumps from the north-south section of the road after the east-west section is closed.
"We actually talked with all of the nearby property owners about closing the road, and the talks were very productive," said Hainsey. "One particular section of Raymond Road that will remain open is pretty narrow, so we have agreed to remove some of the trees and stumps so the farmers can get their equipment from Charleigh Ford Road down Raymond Road."
However, Randolph Lipscomb, an attorney representing the landowners affected by the road closing, expressed concerns over the taxiway project not coming to fruition.
"My biggest fear is that one year from now Stark still will not have a taxiway built, but the road will still be closed," Lipscomb said.
In other business, the board:
n Passed a resolution declaring its intent to apply for a loan not to exceed $235,000.
If awarded, the loan will be used to complete rail improvements for the yet-unnamed Project Star coming to the Golden Triangle Industrial Park.
"As far as applying for grants for the project, we''ve gone about as far as we can go without some kind of actual commitment from the company," said Patsy Patterson, home specialist with the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District.
The county will advertise bids for the loan and receive the loan if it is awarded. However, the industry involved in Project Star will repay the loan in the future, said Patterson.
"The industry and the county will enter into an agreement in the future, in which the industry will pay the loan back," said Patterson. "This project has dragged on for a while, but hopefully we will get it going and be able make an announcement pretty soon."