Supervisors Session Focuses on Ground & Air Transportation

By Joe Pyritz

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors (BOS) heard the recommended five-year plan for roadways in Pinal County. These construction, improvement or maintenance projects are funded by a voter approved half-cent transportation Excise Tax

The recommendation for these projects comes from the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC), a ten-member panel of residents chosen by the Board of Supervisors. There are three public meetings held in September, November and February, where the TAC will consider comments and recommendations made to the BOS.

For the five-year plan (2019-2023), there are actually 94 projects, totaling $45.9 million dollars. The Supervisors were pleased to see the list of projects increasing, thanks to the money collected from the excise tax and the participation from the public.

“That’s encouraging,” Supervisor Anthony Smith said, “to see the amount of submittals from the public. I will often encourage residents to make those submittals, but I didn’t know that’s being very successful.”

Supervisor Pete Rios said he was pleasantly surprised that the public takes such an interest in the process. “I’m glad to see the majority of projects on the five-year plan are citizen initiated,” Rios said. “That tells me the process is working.”

Supervisors Receive Update on Pinal County Airports

Pinal County owns two airports: Pinal Airpark and San Manuel Airport.

Airport Manager Jim Petty started off by updating the Supervisors on San Manuel Airport, located in eastern Pinal County. Since taking over the airport from Magma Copper Company in late 1999, the county has made several improvements to the site to entice more aviation activities.

Those improvements include:

  • Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS) that gives pilots flying in and out of the airport the latest meteorological observations
  • New taxiways constructed
  • Construction of two 10 unit T-Hangars
  • Self-service fuel system
  • Runway lighting system
  • Construction of a terminal building
  • Reconstructed ramp area

Many of these projects were constructed with the help of Federal and Arizona grants.

New projects on the horizon for the airport include hazard mitigation to make the runway and taxiway safer, along with further improvements to taxiway lighting around the airport that will replace the reflectors currently in place.

Petty went on to inform the Supervisors of the recent acceptance by the Federal Aviation Administration of the new master plan for Pinal Airpark. There are several improvements that need to be made to keep tenants at the airport and attract future companies.

“One of the issues that we need to address at the airport is the aging infrastructure,” Petty said. “A lot of our past tenants didn’t put back into the airpark what they took out of it. They didn’t reinvigorate the infrastructure.”

Some the more urgent improvements need to be made to the water piping, electrical systems and roadways on the property. After an assessment by an outside firm, Petty said that rehabing the water system would cost over $5 million. Electrical systems would cost over $2 million and over $2 million for roadway improvements.

Petty used a video of a 747 Dream Lifter taking off from Pinal Airpark to show the need to expand the footprint of the runway to help accommodate larger aircraft. The video showed the engines kicking up dust during take-off. Increasing the width of the runway would help to alleviate this issue for incoming and outgoing aircraft. The county, with the help of state money, rehabbed the runway in 2015.

Petty also pointed out a new website solely for the airpark: The site highlights the rich history of the airpark, the tenants at the airpark and the future of the airpark.

One problem he feels needs to be addressed is the amount of people who show up at the airpark looking for a tour. There are currently no organized tours of the airpark and this could pose further problems down the line. He thinks future open houses could ease the problem, or mini-tour events on specific dates.

At one time, the Airpark was housing one tenant that did aircraft work; today, Petty is proud to announce five tenants doing the same type of work. He also informed the Supervisors of future plans to partner with Pima County and the Arizona State Land Department to bring even further improvements to the airpark.

“This has been an ongoing project since most of this Board has been seated,” said Supervisor Todd House. “We’ve been making fairly good steps over the last four or five years on the airpark. We’re building a nice foundation on what we can do with that location.”

One of the topics of discussion surrounding the airpark is housing for pilots and employees. There are currently two apartment areas and homes being leased out by the county to employees of some of the tenants at the airpark. Petty stressed that any housing at the airpark had to be related to what is going on at the airpark.

“I’m a native Arizonan, and I can remember a conversation on how much it would take to expand Sky Harbor Airport and the Tucson Airport,” said Chairman Mike Goodman. “There was also a discussion about expanding our airpark at one time with a major rail system between the two airports. Our airpark has been looked at for a number of years to be enhanced. I appreciate what you’ve done and continue to do.”

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