Airport board continues with renovations

Published 10:01 pm Friday, December 19, 2008

A fire safety feature that hung up renovation plans at Craig Airport is no longer an issue.

The board of the Craig Field Airport and Industrial Authority discussed options for the renovation of two hangars. The goal was to hit the target of $2.6 million or less, even if that meant doing the renovations without a fire suppression system.

The system will be part of the renovation of hangar 251, said Craig Field Executive Director Menzo Driskell, because it can hold larger planes. The board has not decided if it will be included for hangar 255.

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“Because the Air Force was building (the hangars), they didn’t put them in there,” Driskell said. “They had a full-time fire department, and they would de-fuel the planes when they went into the hangars.”

The fire suppression system includes water sprinklers and a foam deluge feature — common for airplane hangars — to fight different types of fires.

The authority began discussions earlier this year about renovating the structures to attract industries to the airport.

Alabama Fire Marshal Ed Paulk said that the need for a fire suppression system would change depending on the tenant.

“Not everything does require a sprinkler system. It depends on its use and the requirements for that type of occupancy.”

Fred Lynn, an architect with Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood based in Montgomery, consulted with the board. He said going ahead with the renovation without installing a fire suppression system was an efficient approach.

Once a tenant moves into the hangar, the board can then install the system using money from a grant.

“You could eliminate the fire suppression system, which would allow you to do all the other things that were planned,” Lynn said. “It would immediately bring the project into budget. You would still get a fire sprinkler system; you would just have to make monthly payments on it other than all at once.”

Lynn estimated the fire sprinkler system would cost between $500,000 to $700,000.

Board chairman James Mitchell said Gov. Bob Riley’s declaration of education proration and cuts in state spending could hurt the chances of getting a grant the longer the renovation waits.

“I think you’re going to have a tough time right now trying to get any additional money from Montgomery,” Mitchell said.