Airport in line for grant funding, runway work

The Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) accepted an aviation grant agreement between the Colorado Department of Transportation-Aeronautics Division (CDOT) and Stevens Field, Feb. 3. The move paves the way for new seal-coating of at least some county airfield surfaces, later this summer.

Every year, airports across the nation qualify for a Federal Aviation Administration Airport Improvement Program entitlement of an indeterminate amount of money, depending on a lengthy list of federal priorities. In recent years, Stevens Field has met the requirements for an annual $150,000 General Aviation Entitlement. The money comes as 95-percent matching funds, with the county and CDOT each contributing an additional 2.5 percent.

Under certain circumstances, the entitlement program allows an airport to roll one year’s allowance over to the following year, in order to fully fund priority projects that might otherwise cost more than a single year’s allotment.

According to airport manager Bill McKown, Stevens Field rolled its 2008 allotment over to this year, with hope of receiving $300,000 in total federal funds in 2009. In fact, McKown has received a grant agreement from the FAA, but it is apparently for the first of two anticipated phases. The amount is $123,693, with the county and CDOT each having to contribute just $3,092.33 in matching funds.

McKown said the FAA expects a second funding cycle that could come by mid- to late summer, but wouldn’t speculate as to its likely amount.

“Both phases will not exceed the $315,790 (including county and CDOT matching funds),” he said in a recent phone interview, “but they could fall short.”

Meanwhile, Archuleta County requested $7,895 in CDOT matching funds last October, which has since been approved by the state aeronautics division, pending full FAA funding. Should federal funding fall short of the foreseen $300,000, both state and county matches would be reduced accordingly.

Billed as AIP 19 and AIP 20, the two projects covered under the aviation grant agreement will apply fresh seal-coating and painting to Runway 19/01 and the respective parking aprons, taxiway and taxiway connectors. Depending on actual funding, the projects may have to be completed in phases, with the runway receiving first priority. Nevertheless, McKown remains hopeful that all targeted surfaces can be sealed and painted before next winter.

While McKown again refused to speculate, he did mention the possibility of unanticipated funding becoming available through a highly touted stimulus package now stumbling its way through Congress. Should that become reality, the manager claims to have a couple of “shovel-ready” projects in mind, just in case.

chuck@pagosasun.com