ROCKLAND – Proposed improvements at the Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head got an administrative boost at the county commissioners’ meeting Tuesday.
The commissioners authorized County Administrator Andrew Hart to sign documents associated with the 2007 Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that covers airport planning and development programs.
The regional airport has been working under a $1 million FAA grant to make improvements to the runway, but grant restrictions impose a limit of $330,000 on spending through March.
“We’re running on a continuing resolution [to the reauthorization bill] that expires in March,” said Airport Manager Jeffrey Northgraves on Tuesday.
The authorization bill was written to provide aviation appropriations through 2011.
“Any time now Congress could take away that continuing resolution and release the rest of the money very rapidly,” he said.
The decision Tuesday by the commissioners to allow the county administrator to sign documents will streamline the process to the county’s advantage.
“That’s actually in keeping with our county charter,” Northgraves said of the decision.
Airport officials plan to use new grant funds to complete the first phase of the design for a terminal at the airport and make improvements by sealing the cracks on the old runway in 2009.
“As the administration [of President-elect Barack Obama] takes over, one of the things we’re planning to do is apply for the new stimulus package,” he said. “We have submitted the terminal building and paving improvements at the airport for stimulus money.”
Advantages of using federal stimulus money include 100 percent funding with no local money match required, and the ability to exceed the FAA’s $1 million cap on construction projects associated with the airport’s federal grant.
“Otherwise, we might have to spread a $6 million project out over six years in that case,” Northgraves said.
He said he would also apply through the FAA on a parallel track for funding on airport improvements.
“I have submitted the terminal and the paving to the FAA as well, so both sides of it are going in, as recommendations come down,” Northgraves said.
The FAA starts some of the construction projects between June and the end of the year in 2009, he said.
Knox County commissioner Chairman Mason Johnson moved to have County Administrator Hart sign the documents.