Tipton expects to sign deed

The Tipton Airport Authority is preparing to sign a deed giving it ownership of the former Superfund site, freeing the Anne Arundel County airport from the bureaucratic controls of its neighbor, the U.S. Army.

But authority Chairman Dennis C. McCoy said he wouldn't sign the deed until the Army clarifies the 347-acre airport's boundaries.


"What we know is what we were told about on a piece of paper," McCoy said. "We know what we think the boundaries are."

McCoy's other conditions for approval include a satisfactory review by the county and the authority's attorney, Norman Polovoy.


McCoy also would like to resolve the problem with the airport's oil/water separator. Currently, any overflow from the system enters a ditch that leads to the Patuxent River. Because the Army declined to pay the $76,000 for a new system, Tipton included a new system in its capital budget proposal. The authority presented its $3.04 million in budget requests to the county's Planning Advisory Board on Friday.

At the authority's meeting Thursday, Polovoy said the deed would be sent quickly to the Pentagon, and the authority hopes it would be signed within 30 days.

The signing of the deed would bring to an end Tipton's existence under the wings of what authority member David W. Almy calls "world-class bureaucracies." For 11 years, Tipton has been monitored by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army, the state and the county.

In 1988, Congress ordered the Army to get rid of the parcel - part of Fort Meade - as well as 8,100 acres that became part of the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge. That order was part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act.

By the early 1990s, county officials were pushing for control of the airport. But during a cleanup in 1995, contractors found thousands of pieces of unexploded ordnance - including hand grenades, mortar shells and anti-tank rockets - that likely were the remains of a time when the area was a munitions training ground and a landfill, before the airfield was built in 1960.

In 1998, the Army was poised to transfer the land to the county. But contamination on other sections of Fort Meade pushed the base onto the EPA's Superfund list of the nation's worst pollution sites.

The EPA approved the county's plans for an airport because of the public interest in it. The agency allowed a 25-year lease of the facility in May 1999, which permitted crews to repair the existing runway and renovate the operations building.

Under the lease, the authority has been able to operate the airport, but, as McCoy said, "we were only a tenant." That left the airport without leverage for financing and unable to control its own destiny.


Almy remembers the cool reception he received from banks when the Tipton authority sought $1 million in loans to build 40 small hangars, called T-hangars.

"There was limited interest," he said. "In many cases, they would not deal with us."

Tipton was taken off the Superfund list in late 1999. At that time, the authority hoped that the deed transfer would follow shortly after, but delays persisted.

Authority members were buoyed, Almy said, by the thought that by next month they could be landholders.

"Many, many things we had to talk to the Army about," he said. "Now, we can just talk to ourselves."