If you were confused about the goings on at the Carmi Airport last Saturday, you’re not alone. As it turns out, many city officials were also unaware that the airport was being utilized for a filming of a brand of Street Racers through a Discovery Channel program. The cat got all the way out of the bag Tuesday evening as Airport Manager Greg Brown provided details to Council.
“The airport was approached probably three or four weeks ago by a group that’s in the process of filming a pilot for some of the action networks. It will be farmed out to three different ones. One in particular is very interested in it right now. They’re Street Racers. It’s based off of the popular Discovery Channel show Street Outlaws. They wanted to, since a street racer is an outlaw, they don’t race on drag strips. It’s a pain in the britches to do that and film that. They came up with a novel idea of wanting to film at airports throughout Southern Illinois. They contacted seven or eight airports and for the most part all the airports said they were not interested, don’t contact us, leave us alone. I said I would talk about it. I was open to conversation.”
Brown says one of the peculiar things about the FAA and the DOT (Federal Aviation Administration/Department of Transportation) is that he says no other airports are generating economic impact through what he calls non-aviation events; those that don’t directly involve planes flying in and out of the airport. He admits that typically when hosting a non aviation event, the downside would be the hoops that have to be jumped through to get the organizations to sign off on it.
“Now technically since it’s your airport we can do it without permission, we just opted not too. We got with our engineer, Bo, of Brown & Roberts, and we laid out a safety plan, so we were actually able to lay out a plan where we kept the airport open while those races were going on. We submitted the plan and the FAA said absolutely. DOT Aeronautics said absolutely. Have at it. Have fun. It was supposed to be all quiet. Lots of it got out. Evidently not as much as I thought would. But we had the first, invitation only closed set filming.
About 30 vehicles were involved in Saturday’s under the radar event, and Greg says the outcome was “remarkable” with not a single complaint from any racers or pilots noting that the airport did actually get some aviation use during the street races.
“He landed. Taxied right up to the ramp and got out taking pictures saying, ‘This is the coolest place I’ve ever been!’ I was afraid he was going to be upset, but he was ecstatic about it.’
With two cars racing southbound on the taxi way and an airplane landing northbound on the runway, Brown described it as cool as ice cream. Given the success, the plans are to expand, do further filming, and to open the event to the public. Additional details will be available as that time approaches.
Our reporter’s main concern was with public transparency, given the fact that it went off relatively unknown. Tinsley, our reporter, asked how many of the council members were notified in advance with only two raising their hands and another in Sheila Headlee who admitted she was notified through her job at the Sheriff’s Department. As it was explained however, the company wanted to keep it hush hush while they worked out details and made sure it worked as they hoped. Furthermore, it doesn’t appear since the City of Carmi is the manager of the facility that there were any rules that would keep them from getting council approval prior to moving forward. The confusion didn’t keep one councilman from attempting to make a motion to attempt to give them approval after the fact, but it was decided approval wasn’t needed.
Resident Doug Redman also raised some concerns about parking on the county road leading to the airport saying that with harvest coming up, it will be a safety hazard. Mayor Jeff Pollard and Greg Brown both assured Redman they were taking that into consideration and would have a plan in place for parking ahead of the first public event.
Other news out of the City Council Meeting Tuesday night includes the city signing off on closing some side streets surrounding the High School so that CWCHS can hold a Homecoming Parade on Friday morning to begin around a quarter before 10am. It was approved unanimously.
WROY/WRUL’s parent company The Original Company was also approved for a Façade Improvement Grant. The media company and radio station plans to make some improvements to it’s building at 101 North Church Street where the downtown studios are located. Tinsley outlined in the proposal a desire to have some tuck pointing done on the building as well as hopefully some additional work in the future to include a new roof, painting and power washing of the building, some face repair and also streetscape. He says the company is also hoping to work with an artist or the school’s art department to create a mural or something aesthetic on the rear side of the building in the hopes of adding to the visual scenery of the community in addition to serving as the voice of White County and beyond.
The mayor, in his report before the close of the meeting reminds the public that Halloween at Burrell Park will be held October 18th and 19th and the lottery for campsites there will begin on Tuesday, October 1st. If you’d like to be entered in that lottery, contact City Clerk Cynthia Atteberry at 384 – 2001 or email [email protected]. Pollard went on to say the Carmi Trick or Treat hours will be held on October 31st from 4pm – 8pm and the city will host it’s Trunk or Treat in the parking lot behind the city’s light and water building from 5:30pm to 7pm on Halloween night.
Clerk Atteberry also noted to the council that the city had received a check totaling more than $602,000 for Generator 11 and there will need to be some discussion amongst the electric committee on how they want to proceed, both with the money and the repair of that piece of equipment. It’s expected to be dealt with at the October 1st Council meeting.
With no closed session, the meeting was adjourned at around 6:30pm. The next gathering will be on October 1st.