Small airport provides big benefits

How important is the New Tazewell Municipal Airport to the immediate area and to Claiborne County? One person who is eager to answer that question is Jerry Beeler, the mayor, who has provided leadership for the establishment and further development of the airport.

Mayor Beeler is quick to describe the airport as “the hidden jewel of Claiborne County.”

Sometimes, it may appear that non-residents know more about the airport than local residents. One reason for that is the airport is used by out-of-town and out-of-state visitors for a variety of reasons. They may fly in to learn more about economic opportunities for a company they own or operate, one that may be looking to expand its operation.

Others fly in for a weekend of recreational and social activities at the nearby golf course. The airport can accommodate them, and the Woodlake Lodge, Golf and Country Club welcome them. When their plane lands, the visitors are less than a mile away from the lodge and country club.

The airport is publicly owned, is open 24 hours a day/seven days a week, and is currently managed by Jerry Hooper. The City of New Tazewell is the owner, and the mayor and six council members serve as Airport Board Members.

Currently under construction is an 8-foot chain link fence designed for the safety of the individuals, their planes, and the deer and other animals that roam the fields nearby. Funding for the fence came from a State of Tennessee Aeronautical Grant (95 percent) and funds from the City of New Tazewell (5 percent).

The airport now boasts a 5,200-foot runway that was recoated last year. Mayor Beeler will describe his pride in an airport that was funded initially with a 6.2-million-dollar federal grant, with the City providing 10 percent of the funding. And he talks of another 3 million that was granted to complete the construction.

There are 34 hangars available on site, including a maintenance hangar. Contracted personnel are on duty to handle aircraft maintenance needs.

Construction provided important dollars that benefitted the local area, and continued maintenance and added improvements are positive signs that the mayor and other elected officials use in describing the New Tazewell Municipal Airport at “the hidden jewel of Claiborne County.”

Annually, the airport hosts an Emergency Management Day when local citizens are welcomed and when emergency personnel and others discuss the importance of the airport and the benefits it brings to the county.

Dr. William H. Baker is a Claiborne County native and former Middlesboro resident. Email: wbaker@limestone.edu