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March 17, 2016

County plans $2.8-million, 2-story airport terminal

I really wanted to step forward and help . . . make the airport a stunning destination for visitors and businesses. I think the terminal is key to that. We’ve flown around and have seen the terminals elsewhere. I want the best for Fauquier.
— Barbara “Bobbie” Crafts of Marshall
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Editor
Fauquier’s supervisors last week gave the green light to design a new, $2.8-million terminal at the county airport near Midland.

The 4,380-square-foot, two-story terminal would stand as the centerpiece of a planned, $26-million renovation of the airport, with more than 90 percent of the funding from state and federal sources.

Still, in coming years, the county would invest about $2.4 million in the project, intended to spark economic development around the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport just east of Route 28. The county would invest another $6.3 million in new water and sewer systems to serve the airport and surrounding industrial land.

The terminal project got a huge boost from a Marshall couple, who’ve promised to donate $500,000, allowing the county to build a more elaborate structure.

“No place has been warmer or more welcoming to us than the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport,” Barbara “Bobbie” Crafts told the board of supervisors last week.

“I really wanted to step forward and help . . . make the airport a stunning destination for visitors and businesses,” Mrs. Crafts added. “I think the terminal is key to that. We’ve flown around and have seen the terminals elsewhere. I want the best for Fauquier.”

She and her husband Ralph Crafts keep two planes at the airport, where they’ve gotten involved with charity flights and fund-raising for the county agency, which must produce most of the revenue it needs for operations.

Without that donation, the airport would get a smaller, one-story terminal.

The Virginia Aviation Board will provide $1.67 million to build it, regardless of size. A one-story terminal would cost the county $781,000, making the total construction budget $2.4 million.

Citizens on the Airport Committee discussed one- and two-story options Feb. 24 but selected the more modest option because of costs.

The two-story building would require another half-million dollars in local funding.

“It’s better to have something you can afford, but I’m worried about expansion down the road,” new Airport Committee member Leo Schefer (Marshall District) said during the debate last month.

“I like that it’s on budget,” Airport Manager David Darrah told the committee. “It’s light years ahead of what we have.”

The existing terminal started as a hanger in the 1960s. It has undergone remodeling and the addition of a conference room, bringing the low-slung structure to about 1,700 square feet.

The county bought the 407-acre, formerly private airport in bankruptcy proceedings about three decades ago.

Despite the allure of a larger terminal’s conceptual drawing, with an open, two-story passenger lounge and a second-story observation deck, the committee voted, 5-0, to recommend the supervisors go with the more modest plan.

Married just 14 months, Mr. and Mrs. Crafts discussed the terminal options, which Delta Airport Consultants Inc. of Richmond developed, on their way home to Marshall after the Feb. 24 meeting.

“We got to talking about it,” Mrs. Crafts recalled. “We’ve got the money. I think the two-story building gives us the opportunity to make a statement about the community.”

She and her husband regard the airport as the “front door” for many who visit Fauquier.

On the drive home, Mrs. Crafts called Mr. Darrah to tell him the couple wanted to donate $500,000 for the larger terminal.

The airport manager later polled the committee, which agreed to change its recommendation and ask for the two-story building.

The supervisors informally agreed to accept the gift during a work session Thursday afternoon, March 10.

“I think your offer is fantastic,” said Supervisor Rick Gerhardt (Cedar Run), a private pilot who previously served on the Airport Committee. “It will make a difference for the airport.”

Mr. Crafts said: “Bobbie and I have lucked out. We have the wherewithal to do good stuff. We don’t want any special treatment.”

The board fell silent for a moment.

“I don’t know how you come up with questions when somebody offers you a half-million dollars,” Mr. Gerhardt said.

Holder Trumbo (Scott) told Mr. Darrah: “If you’re looking for direction, I’d say go up not out.”

Design of the terminal will start after July 1, when fiscal 2017 begins. That will cost an estimated $225,000, with the county paying about one-third.

The supervisors still would need to decide whether to start construction in fiscal 2018. The new terminal would stand near the midpoint of the airport runway, about 2,000 feet southeast of the existing structure.

The airport plans improvements worth an estimated $26.4 million over the next five years. The county’s share would total an estimated $2.4 million for new roads, parking lots, drainage, lighting, hangars and the terminal.

About 29 acres of county-owned industrial land, along with about 35 privately-owned nearby acres, would benefit from the new water and sewer systems.

County Economic Development Director Miles Friedman and the supervisors regard attracting business investment there as critical to the growth of Fauquier’s tax base.
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Jim Griffin · March 25, 2016 at 3:19 pm
Which money-losing facility will benefit local citizens most: The aquatic WARF facility or an airport upgrade? Ahhhh, the luxury of a growing ability to pay!

To be clear: They donate half a million but the plan triggers half a million in local spending for the next five years, likely more beyond that.
J Obrokta · March 22, 2016 at 8:43 am
Suggestion: A two story observation area would look great, but it seems like a lot to spend without having a clear return on that investment. What if the airport changed the design a little bit to turn that open observation area into something that would generate revenue? If the design allowed for a restaurant to operate in that space, whether it were run by the airport or by a 3rd party vendor who leased the space, then we could have a beautiful airport observation area that also added revenue to the county or to future expansions at the airport.

The airport in my hometown did similar things with their observation area, and even though the airport is in the middle of nowhere people still make the drive to eat there because it offers such a unique dining experience.
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