By Ashley Rader
A local business’ expansion plans will not get off the ground after Elizabethton’s City Council failed to grant a permit to allow a helipad at the location.
USA Helicopter, Inc. had been seeking approval for a helipad at its location in the Cherokee Industrial Park since September. Council voted to defer a decision on the helipad in the September meeting to allow council members time to gather more information on the project.
USA Helicopters Inc. CEO and president Mike Jolly and vice-president Erik Kitchens explained the business was currently completing maintenance on helicopters at the facility. With the addition of the helipad, they could also make repairs on site, which would require more employees because of the expanded services offered.
In the September council meeting, Jolly explained the 60-foot by 60-foot helipad would just be a private landing and take-off spot. It would not offer refueling or any other services.
Without the helipad, Jolly said the company would have to have clients land at the Elizabethton municipal airport, disassemble the helicopter, transport it to their facility, put it back together and repair it, then take it back apart and transport it back to the airport to test it.
“It would make it logistically harder on us without the helipad,” Jolly said. “All of our tools and equipment are at the shop. That is why we set up there, to do maintenance and repairs on helicopters. We are in the business of working on helicopters. They need a place to land.”
Councilman Jeff Treadway, who seconded the motion by Richard Tester to approve the helipad permit, said he was not necessarily in favor of the helipad in the industrial park. He said the city already had an airport, with designated flight paths, where the helicopters could land.
“I just don’t see a need for this,” Treadway said.
Jolly said the business was not allowed to do maintenance on the helicopters at the airport.
To see the rest of this story, log on to the Elizabethton Star’s e-edition or pick up a copy of our award-winning print edition, available through subscriptions, in boxes and at vendors throughout Carter and Johnson counties. The e-edition is free to subscribers. Others may pay a daily, weekly or monthly fee to access the e-edition.