Saturday, October 25, 2014

City hopes improvements help airport take off

By DYLAN LYSEN, Herald Staff Writer | 8/11/2014

Planned improvements to Ottawa’s airport show the facility flying higher on the city’s list of priorities.

Ottawa city commissioners approved Wednesday the acceptance of a grant to cut costs for the T-hangar project at the Ottawa Municipal Airport, 2178 Montana Road, as well as approved applying for a grant to help install a new weather system at the airport.

Planned improvements to Ottawa’s airport show the facility flying higher on the city’s list of priorities.

Ottawa city commissioners approved Wednesday the acceptance of a grant to cut costs for the T-hangar project at the Ottawa Municipal Airport, 2178 Montana Road, as well as approved applying for a grant to help install a new weather system at the airport.

City officials previously approved the low bid of $685,879 submitted by MAC Corp, Blue Springs, Missouri, for the project to add more T-hangars to store private aircraft at the airport, according to Herald archives. The company’s bid came in about $92,000 below the engineer’s estimate.

And now that fee will be cut nearly in half. City commissioners Wednesday night approved an expected grant of $318,000 from the Federal Aviation Administration to help ease the cost of the improvements. The FAA still must approve the grant, Scott Bird, the city’s finance director, said.

The remaining funds for the project — about $400,000 — could be covered through a temporary loan that could be rolled into a city bond issue at a later date with another project, Bird said, based on advice he received from the city’s bond attorney and financial adviser.

But that’s not the only improvement on commissioners’ minds. The board also approved applying for a $150,000 grant to install an All Weather Operation System.

Richard Neinstedt, city manager, said the system would cost the city about $200 to $300 a month to calibrate the technology, and the city also would have to pay the cost of electricity to run the equipment.

“But what I’m told [about the electricity cost] is that’s negligible,” Neinstedt said.

Chad Caylor, an airport advisory member, said the airport’s current system for understanding weather conditions at the airport is a windsock, coupled with visual evidence from looking out the window.

“Pilots are basically flying over the airport looking out the window at the windsock which gives you the wind direction, which direction the wind is coming, but not a good indication of the velocity of the wind,” Caylor said.

The new system collects weather data every minute, including wind speed and direction, temperate dew point and sky conditions, Caylor said. The system will allow more pilots to land in Franklin County, he said, because many pilots won’t land at an airport without the system.

“It will improve safety, but it’s also going to open up the airport to a lot of commercial operations,” Caylor said. “Really what the goal is, is to get new business attracted here.”

Shawn Dickinson, city commissioner, said later in the meeting the city wants to continue improvements to the airport because it will help bring more businesses into Franklin County, not just the city.

“The airport really is a county resource,” Dickinson said. “Even though we do maintain it, it is something that a lot of Franklin County residents do use.”

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