Yep, up go the hands. We've all heard this before — many times, in fact.
Any news that City Hall has grand plans and a new federal grant for the airport is welcomed, but it's neither shocking nor revolutionary. Gene Robinson is hardly the first Anniston mayor to dream of better days for the airport. He likely won't be the last, either.
The biography of Anniston Metropolitan Airport says it's one of the more sizeable, and frustrating, brick-and-mortar enigmas in Calhoun County. With its history dating to the 1930s, and with pilots who rave about the quality of its 7,000-foot runway, the airport can tout its golden days of commercial service. There are plenty who remember when flying in and out of Anniston was a convenience for travelers and a calling card for the city's business interests.
But the airport's recent past is clouded in struggles and setbacks. Commuter service ended in the late 1990s. It won't return. Former Mayor Gene Stedham dissolved the airport's oversight board, citing the need to save money. And confusion still exists with many residents over the airport's odd location — sitting on a plot of land south of U.S. 78 that's encircled by the Oxford amoeba.
What's more, Anniston's financial stake in the airport is immense, especially when measured against what it's received in return. In a 2002 series in The Star, former Anniston Mayor Bill Robison estimated that the city had spent millions on the facility. Robison also highlighted the fact that other area cities had benefited from new jobs and travel possibilities the airport had created, but they hadn't helped pay for it. Of course, nothing said they had to, either.
"There's no telling how much money we have put into the airport," Robison told The Star.
This isn't meant to condemn City Hall's latest attempts. Grant money for an improvement plan is good money, and any discussion about the airport keeps it in the public eye, from which it often fades. Plus, let's not discount the facts: The airport's future is in air freight and flight-related services, and the FAA's Flight Service Station keeps the facility extremely relevant.
Of course, it was amusing to hear Robinson say this week that "we have not utilized our airport whatsoever in the past," although the state Department of Transportation says the airport contributes more than $6.3 million annually in economic activity.
That said, let's withhold judgment on this rewriting of Anniston Metropolitan Airport's future until it materializes. Like Anniston's mayors, long-range plans come and go at the airport. Eventually, one of them will do the trick.