For Hometown News
MARTIN COUNTY -- On April 7, the federal contract air-traffic control tower at Witham Field will close.
The decision came from the Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration, who notified Martin County officials recently.
"We are deeply disappointed in the FAA's decision to close the tower," said Sarah Heard, chairwoman of the Martin County Board of County Commissioners. "This decision has a negative impact on Martin County from a safety, noise and economic perspective."
The tower is listed as the 106th busiest tower out of the agency's 249 towers currently in the contract tower program.
Last year, the tower handled almost 13,000 flight operations, with more than 9,000 of those concerning jets. It is located about one mile southeast of Stuart's central business district on a publicly owned airport.
The airport is named after Paul "Homer" Witham, who was the first naval aviator from the Stuart to die in World War II. The county is currently in charge of the 726-acre property.
The airport contains major tenants such as jet charter companies, as well as industrial and manufacturing companies.
It is estimated that the direct and indirect impact of the airport totals more than $150 million a year and encompasses more than 1,000 jobs.
The commissioners will continue to work together to see what can be done from the county's perspective about the closure.
"The Board will be exploring options to keeping the tower operational, including accepting user contributions," Commissioner Heard said.