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Page 4D + BUSINESS Hays Free Press March 27, 2013 Federal budget cuts ground San Marcos airport tower BY BRAD ROLLINS San Marcos Mercury Less than two and a half years after its completion, the air traffic control tower at San Marcos Regional Airport will be closed in the next month or so as the result of automatic federal spending cuts. The FederalAviation Admin- istration announced Friday that it would cut off funding for 149 privately-run airport traffic control towers nation- wide starting April 7. Towers at 13 airports inTexas are marked for shutdown including those at San Marcos, New Braunfels, Georgetown and San Antonio- Stinson. The Arlington and Grand Prairie municipal air- ports were among 40 sparred at the last minute. "We heard from communi- ties across the country about the importance of their towers and these were very tough de- cisions. Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts un- der sequestration," Transpor- tation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. Officials have said they must cut $673 million from the FAA's $9.7 billion annual operating budget under the across-the- board sequestration imposed by Congress and approved by President Obama last year. Since more than 70 percent of the agency's budget is payroll for its 47,000 employees, per- sonnel cuts are inevitable, La- Hood has said. In San Marcos, six full-time' air traffic controllers and a manager employed by Manas- sas, Va.-based Robinson Avia- tion Inc. will lose their jobs - at least until funding is restored or the end of the federal fis- cal year Sept. 30, whichever comes first. "Many of my coworkers are retired military veterans in their 50s and 60s and this is the only skill they know. ... Shutting these towers will have an immediate and detri- mental effect on the entire Na- tional Airspace System," San PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CITY OF SAN MARCOS Above is a view from the air traffic control tower at San Maroos Regional Airport. Marcos air traffic controller and union representative Ed Mears, a Buda resident, said in an emall plea circulated ear- lier this month. On March 11, city council member Kim Porterfield and others met with FAA officials to appeal the tower's closing but were unsuccessful in saving it from the chopping block. Air traffic control towers that handle fewer than 150,000 total flights and fewer than 10,000 commercial flights a year were identified for shuttering. The San Marcos airport tower falls far below those thresholds. In 2012, the San Marcos air- port reported 61,578 take offs and landings, the vast majori- ty of which were private, "gen- eral aviation" aircraft. About 884 takeoffs and landings were commercial "air taxis," or chartered passenger and cargo flights; another 865 were military flights. The balance - 59,827 - were general aviation flights. (Air traffic controllers accommodated an additional 2,120 through-flights over San Marcos airspace, most of them general aviation aircraft, as well.) Yet San Marcos is the pri- mary reliever for Austin-Berg- strom International Airport and might have benefited from the anticipated cuts at ABIA were both airports not in the same fix. Forty Austin air traffic controllers were notified weeks ago that they should expect two unpaid furlough days a month; ABIA officials told the Austin Amer- ican-Statesman the cuts could delay landings and take offs while pilots wait for clearance from controllers. The San Marcos airport tower was paid for with $1.5 million in federal funds and completed in October 2010. It began operations in Septem- ber 2011. The tower closures were met with rapid denounce- ment from Republican con- gressional leaders. U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, who chairs the House's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Sen. John Thune, the rank- ing member on the Senate's transportation panel, said in a letter that LaHood "has the authority and flexibility in its budget ... to find savings in other areas to avoid resorting to closing towers." The chief of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association - the AFL-CIO-affiliated union represented in San Marcos by Mears- took the FAA to task for its handling of the sequester. "The FAA made a bad situ- ation worse by not utilizing a well-thought-out process for evaluating the value of air traffic control towers before ordering their closure. Even if there was a good way to do this, the mandated budget cuts under sequestration have forced the FAA to prioritize its. decision based on expediency rather than safety and effi- ciency," union president Paul Rinaldi said. Buda Bar and Grill Continued from pg. 1A ronment. Where people could afford to take their families." Uresti purchased the busi- ness operating in the building in 2009 with her husband, Rusty. Initially, the duo continued the tradition of providing a small grocery store, while also doubling as a restaurant for the community. However, as the urbanization of Buda began to take shape, with H-E-B, Wal-Mart and Cabela's entering town, the need to continue the grocery aspect began to fade away. In August of 2012, the Uresti family made mass renovations, taking out much of the old grocery portion of the store. Their goal was to bring in a bar and grill, while keeping much of the original atmosphere, such as the hardwood floors. With renovations made, the grocery store gave way to a pool and shuffleboard table, as well as a sit-down bar. Sadly, the Buda Grocery and Grill will be forced to find a new home. "We would like to, if pos- sible, find another location in the downtown area. We felt like we had a nice little niche here in Buda," Uresti said. As the Buda Grocery and Grill doses, plans for the furore of the 100-year-old structure are already in place. James Rigs, owner of Center Field Bar and Grill in Kyle, will take over as the building's next tenant. Rios, along with an investment group who have remained anony- mous, are planning to bring in a steak and seafood restaurant to downtown Buda. "We are not interested with flooding Buda with another bar and grill," Rios said. "We wanted to bring in something new to the area." Currently, they plan to have a restaurant that is quartered off into two sections, using the current bar area as common area and the other half of the building for formal dining. The idea of the restaurant, accord- ing to Rios, is to be "simple, yet elegant," while maintaining affordability as well. "We are not a chain restau- rant," said Rios, who under- stood the fast growing trend within the Buda and Kyle com- munities. "We want to bring in something that does not cost an arm and a leg." The goal for Rios and the investment group is to have the restaurant up and run- ning soon. While renovations will be made, Rios adamantly acknowledged the group's goal of"keeping the integrity of downtown Buda." This will be accomplished by further reno- vating the building to "restore its natural beauty," he said. Despite the circtunstances, Uresti still holds on to fond memories of the town and the building she has occupied for the past four years. "This location has been great," Uresfi said. "Downtown Buda is very unique. We've got the shops, city hall, the parks and the festivals - I think there is a place for everyone out here." AS a chapter of Buda's antiquity draws to a dose, the uniqueness of the Buda area will strike up for one final occasion on March 28, as the store will host the Buda Area Chamber of Commerce (BACC) Business After Hours network- ing mixer. During the event, the BACC will commemorate the service of the Grocery and Grill by asking citizens othe Buda community to support the Uresti family and store for one final community photo. "Working in this historical building and Buda landmark has been a labor of love," said Uresti in a press release. "Even though it is sad to see Buda Grocery and Grill go, we wish the new owners the best of luck in their new business." "Just because Buda Grocery and Grill is dosing that does not mean we will stop making our famous hamburgers. We are currently seeking a new location in Buda and looking forward to establishing a new business that will hopefully last another 100 years," she said. MARK DAMMERT, M.D. FELLOWSHIP-TRAINED IN FACIAL PLASTIC Allergy & Sinus Management Snoring & Sleep Apnea Treatment Hearing Loss & Ear Disorders Dizziness & Balance Disorders Thyroid Disorders Vocal CordDisorders Head & Neck Cancer Surgery Skin Cancer Functional & Cosmetic FacialSurgery Offering Adult & Pediatric Care www, Ha!rsFreePress.cem PHOTO BY DAVID WHITE Landscaping ordinances and sign regulations were a large reason for Scenic City awarding Bucla Gold Sta- tus. Buda's adherence to policies has helped the city maintain a pristine look. Scenic Gold Award Continued from pg. 1D executive vice president of Scenic Texas. "It is to find out what makes them appealing." To reach Gold Status, cit- ies must score 270 out of a possible 338 points. Buda received 269 points, but ob- tained merits for innovative landscaping design in park- ing lots, as well as meeting the recommended standard of ten acres of park land per 1,000 people. Buda will retain the award through the year 2016. To continue beyond that date, the city must continue efforts to maintain the city's appear- ance so that it attracts new businesses, increases tour- ism, and enhances economic development. According to Chance Sparks, director of planning for Buda, the city, "does not want to be just another stop along the IH-35 corridor." Sparks said the city wants to convey Buda as a place where people want to go. "(This award) sends a mes- sage to people from out of town that Buda is a place they want to be, a place they want to visit." Landscaping ordinances and sign regulations were a large reason for Scenic City awarding Buda Gold Status. Buda's adherence to policies has helped the city maintain a pristine look. "The City of Buda has done a great job of keep- ing up with the landscaping ordinances," Sparks said. "We have many restrictive codes and ordinances in place, such as what plants are acceptable and other regulations." Sign regulations, both on and off premises, also helped Buda keep up its image - and thus win the award. But with the ever growing number of busi- nesses, the city has decided it must keep strict sign ordi- nances in place for the future of the town. Buda's growth in business, though, is a plus for the city. "(Expansion) allows Buda a chance to apply some of the goals of scenic city," Sparks said. "It allows us to develop in a way that helps further the goals of Scenic City." In Sparks',mind, Buda's gohl is to create a sense of place," for future businesses,. "We would like to have a predictable environment to conduct business. To have predictable regulation, which is something all businesses enjo," he said. Tourism is one of the boons of the Scenic City award. Buda has seen a great increase in tourists in the past few years. "While there are a variety of reasons for the increase in tourism, Scenic City has definitely played a role in the boost in tourism" said Sparks, say- ing that Buda has seen the largest increase in nature and heritage tourists. Ultimately, reaching the "Platinum City" level is the goal for Buda. In 2016, Buda must reapply with the Scenic City Certification Program. To be named a Platinum City, Buda must receive 304 or more points. Sparks said he felt it would be a "team ef- fort" from Buda's leadership to maintain the city's policy to reach that level. "I am so proud of our staff in all of our departments," Buda Mayor Todd Ruge said. "They have helped create this. They are the heart and soul of our city." S Name ......................................................................... Address ...................................................... ZIp _ Phone ............................... Nohite [Optionat} ............................ 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