Brownwood hopes to see increased use of airport

STEVE NASH steve.nash@brownwoodbulletin.com
A pair of biplanes from the Red Baron Squadron take off from the Brownwood airport in an earlier undated photo.

The City of Brownwood wants to explore possibilities for increasing the use of the Brownwood Regional Airport.

Brownwood City Council members on Tuesday authorized the city to apply for a $75,000 grant to the Texas Department of Transportation for an Airport Business Development and Land Use Plan Grant. The grant requires a 10 percent city match, or $7,500, council members were told.

The grant's purpose is to develop a plan to increase the use of the airport "with the long-term goal of self-sufficiency." That would mean city funds would not be needed to subsidize airport operations, Assistant City Manager Emily Crawford said.

Crawford, who was recently named assistant city manager in addition to her duties as economic development director, now oversees the airport and health department. Crawford presented the grant request to council members Tuesday.

Specific areas to explore, Crawford told council members, are:

• Growing the airport to support local industries and increase their use of the airport.

• Determining how the airport can partner with Howard Payne University, Ranger College and Texas State Technical College to expand their curriculum into aviation related field.

• Ensuring future success of  the development of a "highest/best use airport land use plan."

In other city projects:

• Brownwood City Manager Bobby Rountree told council members it is hoped to have the soccer complex completed and ready for the fall season in 2015.

The city has met with representatives of the two local soccer leagues, who are requesting that changes be made to the design. Changes include having two concession stand/rest rooms rather than one and increasing the number of fields from 17 to 22, Rountree said.

The cost is estimated at more than $3 million, but the city has $2.2 million budgeted. It may be necessary to cut back on some of the plans to stay in budget, Rountree said. City workers are being used where possible to reduce the cost.

• While 150 to 200 jobs are expected when Brownwood Clay Holdings constructs and opens a ceramic proppant plant, construction won't begin for a couple of more years, council members were told.

Council members ratified earlier action by the Brownwood Economic Development Corp. related to Brownwood Clay Holdings and the Brownwood Industrial Foundation.

The BEDC will pay a $25,000 option fee to the industrial foundation so Brownwood Clay Holdings can secure the property, which is between the two Kohler plants and bounded by FM 45 and Burnet.

The plant will manufacture ceramic proppant beads that will be used in oil field fracking.

• Rountree told council members that the Biggert-Waters Act has been amended, sparing property owners in the flood plain from a requirement to buy flood insurance at very high rates.

Provisions of the amendment include the reinstatement of grandfathering, which significantly reduces the amount property owners will have to pay for flood insurance, Rountree said.

After city engineers Don Hatcher and Jodie Kelly alerted city officials about the potential impact of the Biggert-Waters Act, the city used the clout of the Texas Municipal League to help get the act amended, Rountree said.