Wadsworth Council and the Wadsworth Municipal Airport manager are working together in hopes of resurfacing the main runway by the end of the year, a move that could help bring tourism to the area.
“We have been making some repairs to it over the last two years to keep the condition up,” said Robert Patrick, the city’s director of Public Service.
The project is estimated to cost $1 million. The Federal Aviation Administration would pay about $900,000, and the city would pick up the remaining $100,000.
The main runway is 3,529 feet long by 75 feet wide, and hasn’t been repaved since the 2000s. The smaller taxi runway is still in good condition. The public airport is at 840 Airport Drive, off Weber Road.
During the paving, the smaller runway will stay open but will have to close for about a week when aircraft will be directed to airports in surrounding areas.
The process has been in the works for a few years. The project would be primarily funded through the FAA, who would pay 90 percent of the project, leaving the city of Wadsworth responsible for the remaining 10 percent.
Patrick said that the city has also applied for a grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation, which could cut the city’s portion in half.
There are annual meetings between airport personnel, engineers and Patrick to discuss the condition of the airport. This particular grant is programmed years in advance with the FAA, Patrick said. The FAA takes a look at airports in the state and looks at how much they have to disperse.
Engineers were called to inspect and research the best way to resurface the runway, then go out to bid for construction. The bid period will close at the end of the month. Engineers will look at the bids and determine who is lowest at best. Once that is determined, the bid amount will be submitted to the FAA, who will make a decision in August.
Construction on the runway will last about 35 to 38 days. Patrick said that Nov. 1 is the goal for the project to be completed, weather permitting.
Patrick said that the current state of the runway could be preventing people from using the airport in addition to people housing their planes at the airport. Right now, there are about 80 planes, ranging from a vintage World War II aircraft to newer models, housed at the airport.
Airport manager Shane Mitchell said there are weeds growing through a couple of noticeable cracks, something that could ruin a tire or do damage to landing aircraft.
Tourists traveling the country by plane could make a stop in Wadsworth and see what the area has to offer, Mitchell said. “In a small airport like this, it’s very social with tenants and traffic.”
On average, 50-70 aircraft use the runway daily, depending on the weather, Mitchell said. On Thursday, Mitchell said as of 4:45 p.m., that there were approximately 100
takeoffs, attributing the higher traffic to people taking advantage of the clear weather.
In 2015, the airport had 8,000 operations, up almost 1,500 from 2014. This year, Mitchell is anticipating surpassing 8,000.
Mitchell said that the renovation could entice people to stop more frequently for refueling or use Wadsworth as a place to stay while traveling.
Mitchell, in his mid-20s, came to the Wadsworth airport in March, seeing it as an opportunity to learn. “I was coming out of school, and I thought it was the perfect airport to grow,” Mitchell said, referring to both his career and the airport itself.
Mitchell graduated from Kent State University with a degree in Aviation/Airway Management and Operations.
The runway improvement could only be the beginning for the airport, as Mitchell would like to see the airport and community interact more.
In his spare time, Mitchell visits other airports and tries to come up with ways to help the Wadsworth airport to improve.
“I’m always looking for new ways of how different airports are going and achieving their goals.”
During his time at the airport, Mitchell said that his No. 1 goal for the airport is to get the runway rehabbed.
“My major goal for this airport is to see it grow.”