Park Rapids Airport May Get Federal Funding To Update AD Building – Park Rapids Enterprise

On October 12, the Park Rapids Airport Commission learned of a federal grant that could help fund improvements to the municipal airport’s Arrivals and Departures (AD) building.

City Council Representative Erika Randall said the city continues to set aside money each year for AD building updates.

She suggested forming a committee to set priorities, “keeping in mind that we don’t have a $2 million budget for this building. It’s a budget to update it – to get fresh paint, flooring, furniture and maybe use that back space a little better’, like getting an ice machine and better coffee makers so that the pilots fill up before their departure.

Randall added that she doesn’t think there is a need or funds, for example, to replace the building’s toilets. “It’s just not in our budget,” she said, “and if that’s what we’re going to do, then this whole project is going to be pushed back in five to ten years.”

However, airport manager Scott Burlingame advised that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is now offering grants to upgrade AD buildings at the airport and asked if they should start applying for grants.

“I think the answer is yes,” Randall said.

City Administrator Angel Weasner said the FAA allocates $1 million a year for five years in grants to update terminals and control towers. “We are eligible for 95% of the costs to be covered,” she said, “if we can get the grant.”

She said the FAA has helped three or four other Minnesota airports successfully apply for these grants.

Randall urged the commission to identify the project it wishes to fund before applying for the grant.

For starters, Weasner and Burlingame suggested replacing the windows, updating the restrooms and upstairs flooring. Burlingame said the cupola continues to leak even after its roof was replaced and further leaks have not been traced to their cause.

“It would be in our interest to do everything we can and apply,” Weasner said. “Even if we only get half of it, we’re doing half of the project.”

Randall suggested having several options.

Since this year’s grant applications close at the end of October, project engineer Matt Gustafson of TKDA suggested thinking about what to do in the next 6-8 months and then continuing with the funding in next October.

Gustafson added that the grants prioritize certain types of projects, such as increasing access to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — a previously discussed issue regarding the AD building restrooms. Commission members discussed making the washrooms easier to access and installing an elevator.

They also discussed reviewing successful grant applications from other airports and bringing in a qualified inspector, if possible the city building official, to assess the facility for ADA compliance.

In other cases, the airport commission:

  • Discussed the airport’s capital improvement plan, on which snow removal equipment was moved up, prior to hangar construction, on FAA advice. Randall urged the commission to start early next year to identify budget and tax levy wants or needs. Weasner said she would bring it up at the committee’s April meeting, allowing them to finalize their request in July and include it in the 2024 budget.
  • Heard Weasner reports that there are currently 33 people on the T-hangar waiting list, after one person was taken off the list because they no longer had an FAA-licensed aircraft. She said a private hangar lease had been approved and a second person had expressed interest.
  • Heard Weasner reports that the airport budget is reduced from 2022 to 2023 due to the completion of the taxilane project. She said more spending has gone into repairing buildings this year than expected, necessitating funds to be withdrawn from repairing equipment.
  • Heard a reminder from Gustafson that the airport runway reconstruction project is coming in 3-4 years, and the FAA advised to start thinking about it.
  • I heard Burlingame report that one of the ovens in the AD building will soon need to be replaced.
  • Discussed options for opening hangar doors during winter without losing rubber seals, which can stick to ice. Tom Hass of Park Rapids Avionics suggested applying heat tape, which has a built-in electrical wire to keep the joint warm.

The next quarterly Airport Commission meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Wednesday, January 4, 2023 at City Hall.

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