County airport gets needed makeover

The Shelby County Airport is getting a needed makeover.

County employees and inmate laborers from the Shelby County Jail have been working for months to improve the airport and make it more welcoming to visitors.

The $750,000 renovations include a new lobby, complete with Wi-Fi Internet access and plasma televisions.

County Manager Alex Dudchock said the upgrades were needed to make the airport a place pilots want to fly in and out of.

“Our goal is that we will be the stop for people who use area airports,” said Dudchock.

Up until last year, the airport was operated under a private company.

However, the county was not satisfied with the agreement and decided not to renew the lease, Dudchock said.

Shelby County has been running the airport since April 1, 2007.

“We had no control of what people would find when they got here,” said Dudchock.

“It wasn’t the first impression you want to give off.”

The renovations also include a weather station and maps to help with flight planning, a breakroom and bathrooms.

“You remember what the bathrooms look like,” said Reed Prince, county facilities and general services manager. “Those you remember even if don’t anything else.”

The airport will also have plenty of amenities for corporate pilots. These include a bunker room for pilots to sleep in before logging more hours, lockerrooms and a separate lodge.

The breakrooms include vending machines, a refrigerator, an icemaker and a microwave.

But Dudchock said he is most proud of a state-of-the art conference room. He said the meeting space will help recruit business and complement nearby Shelby West Corporate Park.

There are also plans to add at least 10 more hangers for corporate planes with county labor.

Currently, 93 planes are kept at the airport, with approximately a third of those being corporate jets.

More than 50 planes pass through the airport on a given day.

The flights are mix of business and pleasure, Dudchock said.

The airport just added a self-service fuel station that allows pilots to fill up anytime by swiping a credit card.

There is also a new Shelby County Sheriff’s Office substation on-site, which has four offices for deputies to use.

The lobby renovations should be finished by the end of 2008, Dudchock said.

The project is funded by the county’s lodging tax from the past several years. “We knew this day was coming and saved up,” Dudchock said.