Chattanooga airport officials agreed Monday to jump-start efforts that could lead to developing the west side of Lovell Field -- a site already eyed for a potential $20 million hangar complex.
Airport Authority members approved spending $385,000 for an engineering firm to design a taxiway connector, entrance roads, parking and fencing for the vacant tract just west of the main runway.
Mike Landguth, airport president, said constructing the improvements could cost $6 million and start later this year.
Federal, state and airport funds would pay for construction costs, with the airport putting up about 2.5 percent of the total, Mr. Landguth said.
Authority member Amy Walker Cherry said the airport needs to look for business development opportunities on its property.
"In the past, we haven't done enough," she said.
Chattanooga developer Ed Cagle and Cincinnati businessman Ken Allison have proposed building a $15 million to $20 million hangar complex to service general aviation aircraft.
The proposal involving fixed-base operator Million Air calls for using about 12 acres of west side land, which it would lease from the airport. The plan has drawn fire from existing fixed-base operator TAC Air, whose officials have questioned the need for another such business.
Mr. Landguth said plans are to issue a request for proposals on the west side property and see what comes back.
Airport officials said possible lower funding from the federal Airport Improvement Program along with the financial problems experienced by airlines could affect airport revenues. The Airport Improvement Program supplies discretionary and other funds.
Mr. Landguth said the airport gets about $4 million in airport improvement funds annually.
Authority member Jim Hall said he's concerned about future funding at airports in the wake of federal budget deficits.
"It's not just this airport but every airport," he said.
Scott Broyles, the airport's vice president of operations, laid out a plan that covered potential infrastructure improvements at the airport over the rest of this decade.
But, he said, airport officials are moving quickly on the west side. He said the engineering firm will have up to 26 weeks to do its design work.
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Officials outlined possible infrastructure improvements at Lovell Field:
* West side taxiway connector and roads for future development
* Elevating east side property to prevent flooding and enhance air cargo space
* Purchase tract at south end of main runway for safety
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