OWLS HEAD, Maine — The projected cost of a fence to encircle the Knox County Regional Airport in order to keep turkeys, turkey buzzards and deer off the runways is $1.2 million.
Airport Manager Jeffrey Northgraves told the Knox County Commissioners and Knox County Budget Committee on Thursday night that the fence was the top capital improvement priority for 2013. The budget committee approved the airport budget and the sheriff’s patrol budget, both of which are up 7 percent from a year ago.
Northgraves said the fence is being designed and he hopes construction can begin in the spring.
He said there have been five incidents this year in which aircraft have struck wildlife. That is more incidents in one year than in the entire time since he became airport manager in 2004, he said.
Among the nuisance animals that cause problems at the airport are deer, seagulls, turkeys that run onto airport grounds and turkey buzzards that chase after the turkeys. Northgraves said the fence will address all of those except the seagulls.
The cost is so great because it involves erecting 10,000 feet of fence including in wetland and wooded areas. The fence will be 10 feet high with barbed wire on top. He said it will be chainlink in places, but that some sections will be similar to chicken wire with small weaving at the bottom to keep out small critters and larger weave on the top to still keep out larger animals.
The Federal Aviation Administration contributes $1 million each year to the airport for safety improvements and this project falls into that category, the airport manager said. He said the FAA money comes from fees on people who use airports and not tax dollars.
The airport manager pointed out that the original estimated cost of the project was $3 million but that he saved a lot by proposing a type of fence used in Canada and at military airports in northern tier countries. The FAA accepted his proposal.
The airport manager presented his proposed 2013 budget to commissioners on Thursday night. The proposed $505,000 budget represents a 7 percent increase over the previous year. Spending from the FAA grants is not included in the budget. The county pays for 5 percent of such projects as the fence with the state paying 5 percent and the FAA 90 percent.
The budget committee backed the 2013 operational budget.
The budget committee also backed the proposed sheriff’s patrol budget which is $1.96 million for 2013. That represents a 7 percent increase over last year.
Chief Deputy Tim Carroll said the department’s budget consists largely of personnel expenses which amount to nearly $1. 7 million.
He said demand for services has increased, citing an increase in calls over last year. Carroll said there have been 10,123 calls to date in 2012 compared to 8,131 in 2011.
Budget Committee member Randy Stearns noted that those figures, however, include property checks of businesses made by the department. He said that including those figures allows the department to self generate an increase.
Among ways the department is trying to cut expenses, the chief deputy said, is it is converting to six-cylinder vehicles in order to get better gas mileage and save on fuel costs.
The budget reviews will continue with a final public hearing and votes on Dec. 11 or Dec. 18 at the courthouse.