The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

May 3, 2012

Fine-tuning airport infrastructure

Airport competing for thousands of dollars in annual grant

OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Regional Airport is in need of a few updates.

The airport is applying for four different grants on one application to the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Aviation Grants Program for fiscal year 2013, a competitive grant that the state’s 101 airports vie for.

“There is $750,000 they have to give out in grants each year, and usually they receive several millions of dollars worth of requests,” said Tom Francis, airport maintenance supervisor.

The Ottumwa airport alone is estimating its five projects could cost more than $190,000, of which approximately 80 percent could be funded through the grant.

The first project, a security grant, would help pay for new lighting on the ramp in front of the Terminal Building.

Francis said the terminal ramp is poorly lit and he has received a few complaints from emergency services personnel and air ambulance operators that it’s hard to safely transfer patients.

“We’ve known for years it wasn’t very good,” Francis said. “But it’s just so they can see when they’re getting in and out of the plane, it has nothing to do with the runway.”

Musco Lighting in Oskaloosa has offered to design the lighting, provide the light poles and luminaries and oversee installation.

The lighting is expected to cost more than $57,000, 85 percent of which Francis hopes will be funded through the grant.

The second grant would fund two projects. The first is to construct a three-sided enclosure for the Ottumwa Flying Services fuel trucks for protection.

“There are certain regulations for the fuel trucks, such as they have to be parked outside, and have to be so far away from the buildings, which puts them out in all kinds of weather,” Francis said. “This will protect them and reduce the possibility of getting water or contaminant in the fuel.”

Francis estimates this will cost $15,000, again 85 percent of which could be funded through the grant.

The second project for the second grant would replace the asphalt shingles on the Terminal Building with a standing seam metal roof.

Within a few years of the Terminal Building’s construction in 2002, shingles began blowing off, and they are now delaminating.

“Typically they should have lasted longer than that,” Francis said. “Evidently it was a lower quality shingle put on. Then again, it’s always windy out here.”

Francis said instances of shingles blowing off are becoming more and more frequent and occurring in larger areas.

The estimated cost is $65,000, 85 percent of which could be funded through the grant.

The local match for these first three projects is $20,585, $15,000 of which has been budgeted for in fiscal year 2013. The remaining $5,585 will come from the airport fund balance.

“Usually we have gotten everything we’ve applied for, but not always,” Francis said. “There have been several times we didn’t receive all the funding. Then we have to decide how to either come up with additional funding from other sources or we have to figure out how to streamline or curtail a project back to fit within the amount we received.”

The third grant is for patching and crack sealing on one runway and patching potholes on the ramp/apron area.

“We’re beginning to see on the primary runway; it’s getting to the age where cracks start opening up and letting water into the pavement surface, affecting the mat,” Francis said.

He added the airport annually budgets $15,000 for patching and crack sealing, of which $10,500 has been funded through the grant for the last five to six years and $5,000 of which is locally matched.

“We accomplish as much patching and/or crack sealing as can be done within the budgeted amount,” Francis said at the City Council meeting this week.

The final grant is for developing and implementing compatible land use and airport zoning ordinances in Wapello County and the city of Ottumwa.

Beginning in fiscal year 2014, the DOT will require airports to have zoning ordinances in place to remain eligible for any IDOT grants.

The estimated cost of this project is nearly $40,000, 85 percent of which could be funded through the grant, though the maximum grant amount available is $25,000. This would leave a local match of nearly $15,000, which would come from the airport fund.

In the past, Francis said monies received through this grant program have helped repair and upgrade the hangars, among other projects.

The airport has applied for this grant for about 10 years and has been very successful every year, he said.

“We’re growing, trying to keep busy and keep improving and maintaining a safe, operating airport.”

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