Board looks at airport projects, funding

Friday, September 27, 2013

Improvements at the Fort Scott Municipal Airport in the coming years were the focus of discussion during Thursday's meeting of the Airport Advisory Board.

Board members discussed a proposed airport capital plan, and proposed improvement projects, as well as funding options and grant deadlines. They also viewed a Powerpoint presentation provided by Matt Jacobs and Mike Waller of Lochner Aviation Services, a consulting firm that helps the city with airport projects.

The presentation focused on planned projects in upcoming years at the local airport currently in the Federal Aviation Administration's system through 2016. Jacobs said Lochner has been working with Airport Manager Kenny Howard for the last several years regarding the airport.

Board members Dallas Smith and Tim Emerson were not present for the meeting.

During the meeting, the board voted to proceed with a priority setup of FAA-supported projects, which include rehabilitation of the runway and taxiways at the airport, and new lighting systems, all outlined by Howard.

"In 2014, we're going to try to do a slurry seal on the runway and taxiways," Howard said after the meeting. "In 2015, we'll try to do the lights if funds are available."

Howard said the board chose to put off a plan to extend the runway an additional 600 feet due to limited availability of funds. The original plan was to extend the current 4,400-foot runway to 5,000 feet.

"That will be on the back burner for at least four years," he said. "With some cutbacks on funds and we're rated on a scale for projects to see if we qualify. Without that discretionary money, it's virtually impossible to do due to costs."

Howard said an airport must receive a rating of at least 48 from the FAA in order to get discretionary dollars for such a project. The Fort Scott airport's rating is 45.

"We want to try to preserve the runway," he said. "It's in really good shape but we don't want to let it slip."

Howard said Sept. 30 is the deadline for application for a 95-5 Kansas Department of Transportation grant the board wishes to apply for to help pay for reconstruction of an apron in front of the fuel system and an apron in front of one of the hangars at the airport.

"We probably won't know until the first of the year if we're considered," he said.

Besides trying to obtain state and federal grants, local airports can use entitlement funds, essentially grant money from the federal government, to pay for improvement projects, Howard said.

"The FAA sets aside entitlement money for every airport," he said. "Money is set aside every year for airport improvements. We qualify for $150,000 every year. It's used for a lot of different projects such as lights and beacons."

During his presentation, Jacobs said the overall condition of the airport runway and taxiways are "really good" but they are drying out and beginning to oxidize. A project to repair joints and cracks, and place a slurry seal which extends the life of the pavement, then re-mark the pavements, would cost about $250,000.

That project would take the rest of the airport's remaining entitlement funds and part of next year's allotted funds, Jacobs said.

The airport has $77,000 in 2011 entitlement funds still available that must be used and will expire soon if no project is chosen for 2014. Howard said those funds would go to another airport if they are not used.

Jacobs also said during his presentation that apron areas are in "bad shape" and would be a "harder sell to the FAA" but could be a candidate for assistance from KDOT Aviation.

The board is also considering replacement of lighting systems at the airport, which Howard said are "really old" and have been exposed to the elements and moisture. A lightning strike earlier this month caused some damage to lights and other areas at the airport.

"We replaced at least 12 transformers," he said. "The next three months will be a continuous issue with the lights (due to the strike)."

Howard said insurance covered those damages but the lights will eventually need to be replaced.

"We're fortunate it didn't take out the beacon and other equipment," he said.

During the meeting, the board also set a date of Oct. 24 to discuss the future of Airport Day. The board voted to ground this year's event due to the show losing money, but haven't ruled out the possibility of shows taking place in future years.

According to information from Lochner, projects to replace the runway and taxiway lighting systems at the airport would cost about $600,000, while reconstruction of the fueling apron and east aircraft parking apron areas would cost about $515,000.