Airport needs one more OK for new facility

October 7, 2018

The Columbus Municipal Airport is getting closer to building a snow removal equipment storage facility after the U.S. Senate earlier this week passed a Federal Aviation Administration bill allocating more funding to numerous Nebraska airports.

The FAA bill reauthorizes the Essential Air Service program and gradually increases the authorized funding from $155 million in fiscal year 2018 to $172 million in fiscal year 2023. The bill includes several provision worked on by U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer.

Chanse Jones, deputy communications director for the U.S. Senate, said the bill is intended to help address some state airports’ concerns about certain FAA restrictions. The decision currently lies in the hands of President Donald Trump.

According to FAA policy, Columbus Municipal Airport Manager Keith Schademann said smaller airports are not permitted to build storage facilities larger than 3,000-square-feet with the federal funding. Local airport officials have expressed a desire to build a facility twice that size, Schademann said, which would become more difficult if the bill wasn’t passed. He added the City of Columbus might have to help cover the cost of the facility under the latter scenario.

Although the airport does not have scheduled commercial flights, Schademann said it is mainly used for corporate aircraft for businesses like BD Medical, ADM and Nebraska Public Power District, in addition to housing the Midwest Medical Transport Company that operates 24 hours daily.

Once passed, airport officials will not only be allowed to build a larger storage facility but funding received through FAA’s Airport Improvement Program will cover 90 percent of project expenses. The rest will be funding by local tax dollars.

Schademann said the project’s cost came to an estimated of $600,000.

Schademann said he hopes to see construction begin early next year after going through state and federal regulations.

In order to upkeep runways, commercial driveways and the Midwest Medical aircraft hangars during the winter, Schademann said the airport carries large quantities of snow removal equipment.

Currently, Schademann said, the equipment is kept inside old storage hangars that are neither heated nor properly lit. These spaces are also not big enough to house each equipment, leaving a number of machines outside, which deteriorates the functionality.

After an equipment is kept in the cold for too long, Schademann said it oftentimes take workers a long time to start up the machine or they spend too much time removing snow and ice on it.

“(So I’m excited) that we would have all of our equipment in a warm facility and that we would be able to work on it out of the elements and won’t have to clean the snow off before you use it,” he said.

Schademann worked closely with city administrators to make sure local airport needs are met. He said he has had a conversation with Columbus City Administrator Tara Vasicek.

Now, he and others are just waiting to see what becomes of the bill.

“So it has been on hold until this time,” Schademann said.

Other airports that would benefit from the bill include the Central Nebraska Regional Airport (Grand Island) that will be utilizing federal funding to make improvements to its contract towers and the Western Nebraska Regional Airport (Scottsbluff) that will continue to receive funding despite downturns in service.

“This bill, it affects all of the airports in different manners and different ways,” Schademann said.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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