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Airport Board discusses building project

November 16, 2018

There’s currently no ideal system for storing and repairing snow removal equipment on the grounds of Columbus Municipal Airport.

More than $150,000 of machinery used to clear the facility, 1308 Bill Babka Drive, of the white stuff is currently housed in a few old airplane hangars located in the southern portion of the grounds, according to James Murphy, chairman of the Columbus Board of Airport Commissioners.

“They don’t have enough space or heat or anything like that. You’re pretty much just out of the wind, but that’s about it,” Murphy said during a recent meeting inside of the Columbus City Council Chambers, 1369 25th Ave.

The good news, however, is that recently passed legislation by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate has opened up new opportunities for small airports in rural communities like Columbus to benefit from dollars allocated through the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FFA Reauthorization Bill is enabling the Essential Air Service (EAS) Program to receive $155 million during fiscal year 2018 and up to $172 million in fiscal year 2023, as previously reported by The Telegram. The passage of the bill also loosens up some previous restrictions set forth by the FAA regarding the size of buildings able to be erected on smaller airport grounds. Under the old provisions, storage buildings larger than 3,000 square feet couldn’t benefit from federal funding, according to Airport Manager Keith Schademann.

“So now it’s been passed by the House and Senate and signed by the president,” Schademann said of the bill. “So that whole scenario for getting this particular amendment to that bill has happened, but now the FAA has to make sure we meet all the criteria through the state (Nebraska Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics).

If approved, Columbus Municipal Airport could be eligible to have federal funding cover up to 90 percent of the approximately $600,000 project. That dollar amount is very tentative, Schademann said, noting the size of the building – estimated to be about 6,000 square feet – isn’t set in stone.

The idea of having a snow removal equipment building has been on the Airport Improvement Long-Term Plan for about 10 years, he said, noting regulations pertaining to the proposed facility’s size prevented federal dollars from being available.

Prior to 2008 or 2009, the need for a storage facility wasn’t there.

“Prior to that time they hired a contractor when it (the airport) was with the (Columbus Municipal) Airport Authority,” Schademann said. “And then when the city took over the management of the airport, then it was deemed that the airport personnel could handle the snow removal with adequate equipment.”

“The state allowed airport entities to have an airport commission if they had debt services to pay off, and at the time we did,” Murphy added, regarding the Airport Commission. “And that got paid off and then the city took over.”

Project funding at the earliest would likely be approved by spring 2019, at which time airport officials would start the contracting process.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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