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Instrument landing system for airport gets greenlight after contract is approved
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Listen to Gainesville City Councilman Bob Hamrick talk about what he thinks is unfair about the state's watering restrictions, along with City Manager Bryan Shuler's response.

In a busy two hours Thursday morning, the Gainesville City Council had a short meeting and a work session that included budget discussions.

The council, which regularly votes two Tuesdays a month, called a special meeting to approve a contract required to complete the installation of Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport’s instrument landing system, which is on a tight deadline for completion.

Currently, airplanes can land at the airport if the cloud ceiling is above 382 feet and visibility is 1.5 miles. With the instrument landing system, the ceiling is reduced to 200 feet, and visibility is one-fourth to one-half mile.

When conditions prevent landing at Gainesville, flights have to be diverted to either Briscoe Field in Lawrenceville or Ben Epps Field in Athens, which are both equipped with instrument landing systems.

Thursday’s council vote approved a contract from the Georgia Department of Transportation to relocate the airport’s lighting system and repaint a runway.

The city had to agree to pay 25 percent of the project’s cost, or $21,771.50, for the airport to receive state funding for the rest of the project.

In a unanimous vote (Councilman George Wangemann was absent), the council voted to approve the funds to meet the deadline for the installation of the landing system.

The city is under a deadline to complete the installation of the system by July 31. If the deadline is missed, the instrument landing system would be listed as "out of service," and an FAA official said it could be 12 to 18 months before the Gainesville system could be placed back in service.

"We need this money so we’d like to move on," said Gainesville Mayor Myrtle Figueras after the council vote.

In the council’s nonvoting meeting, City Manager Bryan Shuler told the council that construction plans for the new downtown parking deck are ready to go through the city’s development review process

The new parking deck will have a brick exterior with a pattern similar to that of the downtown square, Shuler said.

The planned parking deck will extend over the entrance to the Georgia Mountains Center, and construction will begin in 2009.

Harris Blackwood contributed to this report.

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