SILVER SPRINGS - Once the sewer works and the airport runway has pavement, Silver Springs will be on the way to becoming the town of the future in Lyon County and possibly the entire West Coast, local leaders believe.
Even with septic tanks and a gravel runway, outsiders have already scouted out Silver Springs for a couple years, but nearly all are waiting for the infrastructure to be in place.
Silver Springs Airport manager Hale Bennett expects to see industrial construction going on at the airport next summer at the same time pavement goes down on the 7,200-foot runway.
"I have no doubt that will happen," Bennett said.
The new runway could be attractive to industrial parks in Fernley and Storey Park as well as to cargo carriers throughout the western states. Silver Springs not only rests in the center of Lyon County but also the pretty much the middle of the West.
"I think the Silver Springs Airport is strategic to the whole West Coast," Lyon County Manager Steve Snyder said. "I have heard there is a 500-mile-diameter Ouija board where they say 'How can we serve Seattle, Los Angeles and Phoenix?'"
The runway's length and 150-foot width rivals major airports, though paving for now will cover only 6,000-by-75 feet, Bennett said.
The Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday awarded Lyon County $1.05 million to pave the gravel World War II-era runway. Bennett estimates paving 6,000 feet of runway will cost $1.7 million, but he has two other grants pending with he FAA to give the county enough money to pave the runway, build a taxiway, add runway lighting and put in a radio signal to allow for instrument approaches by aircraft.
"Once you get the first grant, you're in the mill and the next ones come much easier," Bennett said. "Once the FAA makes a commitment to build an airport, they do the best they can to keep the money flowing."
The county has $106,000 in Community Development Block Grant money to match $1.5 million in federal funding.
Already a month ago, Lyon County supervisors put out a request for engineering proposals for the runway paving and, now that $1 million has been committed, Bennett believes he may have an engineer hired within three weeks.
Bennett figures the engineer will need about 30 to 45 days to determine if the existing runway needs grading, fill or base work before asphalt can be applied. The pavement could come in spring or summer 2000.
Bennett credits U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., and his staff for making sure the Silver Springs Airport grant was funded.
"Sen. Bryan has been absolutely instrumental in getting the money released," Bennett said. "He and his staff have put in a tremendous amount of time in pointing out how important that airport is to Silver Springs and Lyon County."
Bryan appreciated Bennett's four-year quest for FAA funding.
"This funding is well deserved," Bryan said. "Lyon County and Silver Springs have worked hard to obtain these funds and their commitment to improving this facility has been tireless."
Right now, Silver Springs Airport has a 14-stall hangar, the gravel runway and two wind socks and that's all.
The Lyon County Economic Development Authority sees a paved runway in Silver Springs particularly attractive to those looking for a strip away from the congestion of Reno and Carson City.
John Sanderson, the authority's executive director, sees the Silver Springs Airport as an ideal cargo center for the Nevada Pacific Industrial Park, 15 miles to the north in Fernley.
"It puts some freight possibility closer for them," Sanderson said.
Sanderson even sees potential for Tahoe-Reno Industrial Park on Interstate 80 in Storey County once a desired road over the Virginia Range links I-80 and Highway 50.
Silver Springs also sees itself as a center for industry.
"In conjunction with the sewer, we will have the infrastructure for companies to look here," said Dick Linderman, an Economic Development Authority board member and a former Silver Springs Advisory Board member.
Sewer work for central Silver Springs started early this year with 23 miles of sewer line in place. The treatment plant should be finished around Christmas with residents able to hook up to the $11 million system starting in January, said Ray Johnson, sewer coordinator for the Silver Springs General Improvement District.
A 6-inch sewer line runs to the north side of the airport runway and an 8-inch line will serve the south side.
"We can handle anything they throw at us," Johnson said. "The airport is very much part of the sewer system."
Johnson said the GID received $1.5 million in federal economic grants for sewer construction because several companies said they would locate in Silver Springs if there was a sewer and paved runway.
"We've been working on the sewer for 11 years and (Bennett's) been working four years on the airport," Linderman said. "It's coincidental that all this is happening at the same time. "