Friday, June 21st, 2013
By Amy Kronenberger
Airport sustains minor damage
  NEW KNOXVILLE - Neil Armstrong Airport escaped with only minor damage when the EF-0 tornado went through New Knoxville June 12.
"The airport itself was very lucky," airport manager Sean Stroh told county commissioners during their regular monthly meeting on Thursday. "For what it could have been, we were very, very fortunate."
Stroh said the terminal building had a door and a plate-glass window blown in and another pane of glass cracked in the storm. Estimated cost of the damage is $1,727.
"It's amazing how far we were picking up that glass," he said. "We were finding hunks of glass all the way over on the other side of the hanger, so it went for quite a flight."
The other airport buildings only had some ridge caps and metal peeling up on the roofs, sliding track damage on one of the doors and some sheet metal pulled back. The perimeter fence also sustained damage.
"I had a company come out and give a quote to do a general assessment on all our roofs to make sure they're still sound and there are no major repairs needed," Stroh said.
The roof inspection and minor repairs found were estimated at $950. Stroh is still waiting on estimates for the door, sheet metal and fence.
"Probably the highest dollar figure is going to be the fence on the north and eastern sides of the airport," he said. "From all the flying debris (there are) quite a few areas where the fence is now stretched or destroyed. We have a couple areas with a basketball-sized hole through it."
Along the eastern perimeter, Stroh said a pile of grass clippings was blown against the fence, creating a windbreak.
"It just laid the fence over 10 degrees in some places," he added.
Stroh arrived at the airport at about 1 a.m. June 13, just after the tornado had moved through to assess the damage.
"I did shut down the airport that morning until the following morning at about 10 a.m. or so until I could verify that we didn't have any debris on the runway surfaces and made sure everything was safe," he said.
Stroh and several helpers have spent the last week cleaning up debris around the airport.
Stroh was to meet with county administrator Mike Hensley and an insurance adjuster this morning.
Also during Thursday's meeting, Stroh told commissioners Verizon Wireless agreed to lower a proposed cell phone tower near the airport by 70 feet.
Verizon has contracted with a local land owner to build a reception tower on farmland northwest of the airport. The original plan was to construct a 240-foot tower, which surpassed the airport's 150-foot protected airspace by 90 feet.
Stroh had contacted Verizon informing them of the intrusion, but Ohio law states that local airport and township zoning boards do not have the authority to stop the construction because cell phone towers are considered a public utility.
The only permission required is from the Federal Aviation Administration, which was not opposed to the tower. Stroh sent another letter acknowledging Verizon's right to build the tower but reiterated the danger of invading the airspace.
Stroh recently received another letter from Verizon, informing him of the reduction.
"So that puts them closer to our 150 foot horizontal surface that we're trying to protect," he said. "They're within 20 feet; that's better than 90 feet ... I think they're trying to do that probably as a direct result of the letter."
Stoh also said work continues to possibly annex the airport into New Knoxville. He and commissioners will meet with county prosecutor Ed Pierce to discuss the matter at 2:30 p.m. June 27.
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