Monday, February 15, 2016

Residents upset with Georgetown Municipal Airport (KGTU) upgrades

GEORGETOWN, Texas – Some residents are unhappy with the planned upgrades at Georgetown Municipal Airport, saying they don’t want to add to the 200 takeoffs and landings each day.

For two years, members of Airport Concerned Citizens have sent letters to city council members and state representatives asking for answers. They've attended transportation board and city council meetings.

“You can see that there are numerous neighborhoods that almost totally surround the airport,” said ACC member John Milford, referring to a map he showed KVUE’s Christy Millweard.

Airplane noise is one of the things people are worried about. They say between the noise and air pollution, they want to make sure the airport doesn’t expand.

TxDOT gave the city $8.3 million in grant money for upgrades with the city matching 10 percent of that. City spokesman Keith Hutchinson said the grant is for safety and maintenance work. ACC has around 100 members, and sees the improvements as a possible way to prepare for more plane traffic and bigger airplanes.

“If even a slightly bigger plane than this goes over, than the students in the school here, and the surrounding area, have to stop their classes because of this,” said Judy Brown with ACC as a plane flew over.

The group said pilots circle around the surrounding neighborhoods, adding to the noise. They want pilots to follow the "Fly Friendly Program" set up by the city, which designates noise sensitive areas within a two-mile radius of the airport. Go here to see the program details.

Airport manager Russ Volk said that program was put in place prior to the air traffic control tower, which was built in 2007. Now he says the controllers help designate when, where, and how the planes can land in order to keep everyone safe.

The tower was installed due to the increase in traffic after the airport because a reliever airport for Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

City leaders said they do not have plans to expand the airport, but expect business at the airport to increase with a growing population. A city spokesman tells KVUE there are no plans to extend runways, or add commercial or cargo plane traffic.

“I’m not saying we’re opposed to the airport expanding, I’m just saying we don’t need an expansion where it is currently,” said Milford.

Milford said they suggested a feasibility study and possibly moving the airport, but city leaders said they performed a study in 2002. That study said it would cost too much to move.

The upgrades from the TxDOT grant include things like new lighting and pavement to the taxiways, adding a new taxiway and moving the fuel tanks above ground to comply with environmental standards to preventing leakage into the soil and water supply.

ACC questions the fuel tank changes, saying the size will also increase, so they think it's to accommodate an increase in planes. Hutchinson said they are increasing the tank size, but to get a better price on fuel as they buy in bulk.

“I think the best case scenario is for it to stay as a small airport,” said Jerry Brown, who has lived in the area for 11 years.

The airport has been in the same location since 1945. Go here for frequently asked questions about the airport.

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