County airports receive additional funding

VIRGINIA CITY - Madison County airports fared well with recent funding decisions affecting both the Ennis-Big Sky Airport and Twin Bridges Airport. The Madison County Airport Board heard an update from Robert Peccia and Associates engineer Lance Bowser during its meeting on Jan. 31 at the administrative building in Virginia City. The Madison County commissioners and board members Scott Payne and Tom Miller were present. Bowser and other board members participated via teleconference.

Bowser reported county airports received additional funding from the Montana Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division for three airport improvement projects. "The Montana aeronautics grant allocation meeting was about two weeks ago," said Bowser. "You guys fared very well. Ennis got funding for the partial parallel taxi-lane extension and the runway maintenance in the amount of $31,000 in grant funding. This money cuts into your 10 percent total match and cut that down by about 8 percent."

The board also received a generous portion of grant funds for a major project at Twin Bridges Airport. "Twin Bridges got money for widening the taxiway, and this was the only pavement expansion project that got any funding," said Bowser. "That was actually time well spent on the presentation and going to the meeting. They typically do not allocate money for expansion projects, just because their priorities are runways and maintenance of existing facilities. You got a big chunk of money for widening the taxiway, the associated relocation of the lighting, and then maintenance. That $59,000 was 21.6 percent of the total available grant funding within the entire state. You guys fared very well for the amount of applications received."

A cancelled airport project in Deer Lodge made additional funding of $414,000 available for a snow removal equipment/aircraft rescue and firefighting building at Ennis-Big Sky. "They had another airport - Deer Lodge - dropped a project, and you guys were on the waiting list for state-apportionment funding," said Bowser. "They allocated funding for a four-bay storage building. This is something that is not part of the master plan, so it is something that we can get going on immediately."

The building cost is estimated at $450,000 with the FAA providing 90 percent of the funds. Bowser presented diagrams, via videoconference, and requested a decision whether to pursue a wood-frame or metal building. The board voted 5-0 to approve a metal building.

Board member Scott Payne advocated the use of a local contractor to complete the building. "This is not a rocket science building, it's a 5,000 square foot shed," said Payne. "Why can't someone local in Ennis or Sheridan build it?"

Choice Aviation manager Troy Hunter said it's difficult to find local contractors to bid on projects like the metal building due to the lucrative custom home construction market. Commissioner Jim Hart noted the project must be advertised for bids and local contractors will be welcome to submit bids.

Bowser said he would begin preparing grant fund acceptance documents immediately.

The engineer reported he is awaiting Federal Aviation Administration approval for modifications to design standards for upgrading Ennis-Big Sky's master plan. The FAA required the board to upgrade to a Class C airport master plan. The engineer said FAA approval is the sole item needed to complete the plan. "That is holding up other improvement projects," he said. "That's all that remains to be done on that master plan. As soon as we can get that mod approved, the ALP (airport layout plans) has a spot for us approved and we're done."

The engineer reported an automated weather observing system has been completed at Ennis-Big Sky, and the airport has received a municipal-grade snowplow, as part of a $295,000 improvement project begun last year. The project is 90 percent funded by the FAA.

In other business, the board authorized member Beau Bradley to negotiate a sale price for the purchase of a hangar the board wants to demolish; and authorized an expenditure up to $1,500 for the purchase of a laptop computer for the board clerk.


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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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