City to apply for grant to fund runway extension project

Friday, October 19, 2018

Developments continue on a proposed multi-million dollar project to expand and extend the runway at the Fort Scott Municipal Airport.

City officials have applied for a federal grant through the Federal Aviation Administration to fund a project that would expand the current runway an additional 2,500 feet and widen it an extra 12 feet on each side. State and federal grants have been sought as engineering and survey work continues on the project.

The runway is currently 4,400-feet-by-75 feet. The last time the airport was extended was in 1993, when 2,000 feet was added.

Fort Scott Director of Economic Development Rachel Pruitt said President Donald Trump and Congress have this year allocated $1.5 billion “to assist infrastructure at airports.” City and county officials met with U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran Monday to discuss the planned airport expansion and his support for the project.

“And there is help there to target smaller airports,” Pruitt said.

Increased funding for the Airport Improvement Program means additional grant money is available for projects such as Fort Scott’s proposed runway extension. Pruitt said there is competition statewide for additional dollars.

“Rural economic development is a new topic in D.C.,” she said. “We welcome federal attention and federal dollars we’re typically overlooked for.”

Pruitt has applied for a Supplemental Appropriation Development for Rural Airports grant for fiscal year 2018 and will apply again for fiscal years 2019-2020. The grant requires no local match. Pruitt said she has met with “key players” in the Central Region of the FAA.

City officials have lobbied for grant money since an economic development opportunity arose for the airport in late 2017. In May, the Fort Scott airport was one of four airports to receive state funding for improvement projects. The funding came through the Kansas Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation.

Fort Scott received $286,522 to upgrade the automated weather observation system and to relocate runway lighting to accommodate runway construction. The 90-10 grants required city matching funds.

Total cost of the expansion project will be between $5-$8 million. Thus far, the city has contributed about 5 percent of the overall cost of the project, and has received private contributions and “in-kind work,” Pruitt said.

“Someone will be getting the money,” she said. “We wanted to put our hat in the ring.”

The airport also receives about $180,000 in federal entitlement money each year – money that is typically used for annual maintenance at the airport. Airport Manager Kenny Howard said there is currently about $74,000 in entitlement funds that will expire at the end of 2019.

“We have to use it or it can expire,” he said.

Howard said there is a plan to use that money to install a vault to house electrical equipment. The current metal structure in one of the hangars would be replaced by a more sturdy concrete structure.

Pruitt said city officials seek to have about $190,000 of the KDOT grant money re-allocated toward the expansion project, with the goal of lessening the city’s contribution to the project.

“We hope to minimize the out-of-pocket city cost by re-allocating grant money,” she said.

Howard said funding could go toward engineering and survey work for the expansion project. Preliminary work that began in 2017 includes removal of trees and other obstructions.

“It’s an FAA requirement to replace runway lighting,” he said.

The proposal for the runway extension includes topographic surveys and drillings, as well as an aeronautical survey that was done by Olsson and Associates. The city commission approved a master agreement and work orders for surveys with the firm in August 2017.

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