Airport aerial

The Mercer County Airport, seen here from above, will begin installing three miles of 8-feet-tall fencing topped with barbed wire around its perimeter in January. The fencing will also be installed around an area that will eventually host two new hangars.

BLUEFIELD — Mercer County Airport will see a major safety and security improvement next year with fencing all around the perimeter.

Work will start in January on installing over three miles of 8-feettall chain-link fence topped by three strands of barbed wire, said Clint Ransom, airport general manager.

“We bid that out in August and the FAA (Federal Aviation Agency) got us a grant last week,” he said. “So the total project will cost $920,000.”

Ransom said 90 percent of the money, $828,528, is from the FAA with 5 percent local and 5 percent from the state.

Hastie Fence Company of Massachusetts was the low bidder on the project.

“This will help mitigate wildlife,” he said, for example, of deer interfering with an aircraft, “and it’s also for security.”

About a third of the airport is already fenced. “This will completely fence it in,” he said.

The fencing will also be installed around an area that will eventually have two new T-hangars.

The hangars are shaped like a T, he said, and divided into individual units.

“They will pay the utilities in each unit,” he said, “much like an apartment.“

Each hangar will hold eight aircraft.

Ransom said that project is about two years down the road, but the airport is at almost full capacity now with other airports in the region, like Beckley, already at full capacity, so the need is there and Mercer County could pick up some from other areas needing inside storage.

“While we are doing the fencing we are going to get ready for the hangars (by installing the fencing that will be around them now),” he said.

Fencing will also include several gates.

The airport runway was repaved earlier this year.

Funding from the FAA for the airport was announced Friday by Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.), both members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, as part of $3,226,620 in grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the FAA. The funding will be used to update transportation infrastructure and hazardous materials emergency preparedness.

“I am glad to see these efforts to improve and develop our transportation infrastructure and emergency preparedness across West Virginia are being supported by the DOT and FAA through this funding,” Manchin said in the announcement. “As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue to fight for our transportation industry in order to help show off all that West Virginia has to offer.”

“These investments will improve transportation infrastructure around the state and allow the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to improve and carry out their emergency response plans,” Capito said. “Safety is always our first priority, both on and off the roads, and these grants help improve our state’s overall preparedness.”

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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